After getting a much-needed victory over West Virginia (3-1) on Nov. 10, the Iowa State volleyball team returns to the court (6-7 in Big 12 play) with a road matchup in Norman, Oklahoma against the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (7-6 in Big 12 play).
This will be the Cyclone’s third time on the road in their last four matches and will give Iowa State a chance to climb ahead of Oklahoma, who sits right above Iowa State in the Big 12 volleyball standings. The Sooners sit in fourth and Iowa State remains in fifth.
The last matchup with the Sooners didn’t fare to well for the Cyclones, who hit a season-low .136 hitting percentage. It was also only the second time in Jess Schaben’s career she hit for a negative hit percentage.
Schaben has picked up her play quite a bit since the loss to Oklahoma. Over her last four matches, Schaben totaled an average of 19 kills per game, her biggest performance coming from a 26-kill explosion against Baylor. Schaben’s average of a .246 hit percentage over her last four matches is nothing to laugh at either, said coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.
Despite her struggles against Oklahoma earlier in the season, her head coach has been amazed with Schaben’s play as of late.
“Jess has been omniscient,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She has been doing whatever it takes to win and it has been pretty cool to see.”
The success has come even though opponents have been attempting to have Schaben triple-blocked in multiple matches. She has still been the consistent aspect of the Cyclone’s attack.
“I just try and play my best every night,” Schaben said. “I only have a few games left in this jersey so I have to go out there and play hard for my team every chance I get.”
Oklahoma did not triple-block Schaben in the last matchup, but Johnson-Lynch offered her opinion on whether or not the Sooners should try it on Schaben this time around.
“I sure would,” said Johnson-Lynch.
The matchup with Oklahoma came at a point in the season where Johnson-Lynch believed the team was playing average and was struggling to find a rhythm offensively.
Oklahoma’s defense came to play that game says Johnson-Lynch, by racking up 16 blocks and 77 digs, Iowa State failed to have consistent offense across the board.
The bright spot for Iowa State in the match was Eleanor Holthaus and Hali Hillegas. Holthaus ended her night with a career-high 17 kills and a .464 hitting percentage. Hillegas provided most of the digs for Iowa State, collecting 26 of her own in the back-row for the Cyclones.
By defeating Iowa State on Oct. 3, Oklahoma received its first win in the series since 2013 and the first victory in Ames since 2006.
“They are one of the best blocking teams in the country and we didn’t play them at our best last time,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I am excited to see what we play like this time.”
Grace Lazard has been used to filling up the stat-sheets all season and throughout her career at Iowa State but in the last matchup against Oklahoma, Lazard only managed nine kills. On the defensive-side, Lazard led the Cyclones with six blocks, one short of her season-best seven blocks against Kansas State on Oct. 10.
When Lazard plays against the Sooners, it will be only her second game back from a two game suspension she served prior to returning for the West Virginia matchup. Lazard was glad to be back with the team and be in her routine once again.
She expects to play against a tough opponent in Oklahoma on Wednesday night, but that is nothing new to her.
“We all expect them to play hard and fast like they did last time when they beat us,” Lazard said. “I think we will be ready this time.”
The first-serve will take place at 7 p.m. at McCasland Field House in Norman, Oklahoma.