Three weeks ago, Iowa State volleyball played tough on the road against then-No. 4 Texas — a match that has since been cited as a turning point in the team’s season.
On Wednesday, that same Texas team proved to be a roadblock.
Now No. 8 in the country, the Longhorns dominated Iowa State and came away with a 3-0 match sweep, which snapped the Cyclones' three-game winning streak and dropped the team to 11-11 on the year. While both matches between the two teams were 3-0 sweeps in favor of Texas, Wednesday’s match felt entirely different than the first.
On Oct. 6, the Cyclones hung tough with the Longhorns in each set, besting Texas in multiple statistical categories and hitting an efficient .302 percent on the attack.
On Wednesday, however, Iowa State had a season-low attack percentage of .129 percent with no player reaching the .200 percent mark in a night where the Cyclones never topped 19 points in a set.
“Our serving was not as aggressive as it has been, and then they took us out of our passing a bit,” said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “It was not our best night against a very good team.”
For as rough as Iowa State’s night was on the attack, things looked just as bad on the stat sheet defensively. On the attack, the Longhorns had a hitting percentage of .364 percent as a team, with 50 kills and seven attack errors.
That kind of efficiency made things look perhaps a bit worse than they were for the Cyclones, as Johnson-Lynch was pleased with certain aspects of the team’s play defensively.
As a whole, senior outside hitter Jess Schaben pinned the Longhorns’ offense success on being able to play within their system for the majority of the match.
“I felt like they were in-system all the time, so they could set their middles,” Schaben said. “It was hard for us to block them because they were in-system, and they could set anyone.”
As disappointing as things were from the standpoint that Iowa State much better in the first match against Texas, what is perhaps more disappointing, at least from Johnson-Lynch’s perspective, is the fact that the team ended a streak of strong play by playing poorly tonight.
In Iowa State’s previous three matches, Johnson-Lynch noted the team was aggressive with its serving and hitting the ball with efficiency and that it largely came as a result of strong practice habits. Johnson-Lynch didn’t necessarily condemn those habits in her press conference, but she did note that the team seem to let up a bit this week.
Because of that, Johnson-Lynch felt obligated to remind her team that they can’t rest on its laurels just because of a few wins, especially playing in a competitive conference like the Big 12.
“We weren’t fighting and working as hard as we had been,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Maybe that’s because we had success, but we talked about the fact that you never have it figured out. You always have to keep working. In this league, nothing is given.”
Johnson-Lynch won’t have to wait long to see if her message got through, as the Cyclones will be right back in Hilton Coliseum on Friday for another Big 12 rematch — this time against Kansas State.
While Johnson-Lynch cautioned that the quick turnaround can be a positive and a negative, Schaben and fellow senior Grace Lazard were excited at the chance to get back on the court quickly and forget about Wednesday’s match. Though it was a poor performance overall, the two saw it as more of an outlier, rather than a sign of what’s to come.
Lazard in particular echoed Johnson-Lynch’s sentiments and said that the team wasn’t playing aggressive enough, and that the key to shaking it off and getting back on track is not to dwell on the match, but use it as a learning experience.
“We just learn from it,” Lazard said. “I’m not upset. I’m not down. We just learn from it.”