Members of the Iowa State volleyball team met with the media after practice Tuesday. Here are some highlights from the interviews.

Offensive explosion

Inconsistencies with its attack has been a recurring problem for Iowa State throughout much of the season.

These issues came to a head at the beginning of conference play, specifically during a three-game stretch against Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. In those three games, Iowa State averaged a hitting percentage of .193 percent.

Over the last three games, however, Iowa State is hitting at .340 percent clip. Not by coincidence, the Cyclones are 2-1 in those matches, with the lone loss coming to then-No. 4 Texas. Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch credits the all-around improvement of the team for the uptick in offensive efficiency.

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Defensive specialist Taylor Baranski bumps the ball to her teammates during the volleyball game against University of Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum on Oct. 3. The Cyclones lost 3-1.

"We've gotten a lot better the last three matches, especially offensively," she said. "Usually, you don't see that this time of year. And it's a lot of things, our setting has gotten better, ball control has gotten better."

Additionally, Johnson-Lynch noted the Cyclones seem to be playing a lot more free and less tense over the past three matches, which has contributed to much fewer attack and service errors.

Johnson-Lynch also credited outside hitters Josie Herbst and Eleanor Holthaus for their roles in the offensive turnaround, saying that their ability to score has been crucial in opening up opportunities for teammates as opponents turn their attention to them.

Herbst said an emphasis on communication and hitting efficiently has been the primary reason for the recent success of the two.

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Outside hitter Josie Herbst bumps the ball to her teammates during the volleyball game against University of Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum on Oct. 3. The Cyclones lost 3-1.

"Me and El probably just keep talking to the team," Herbst said. "We try to do that as much as possible."

Keeping things grounded

Even with two straight wins and three straight solid performances, Iowa State's still has its fair share of issues to solve.

That's why the team isn't getting too high on itself despite the recent upswing in play. As a whole, the Cyclones know they still have a lot of ground to make up in the Big 12 Conference, and the solid play of late won't last if they don't continue to work hard.

"We don't have any room to just not really stay focused," Johnson-Lynch said. "Our focus right now is just to get a little bit better, control what we can control, and that's our work ethic and effort."

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Right side Eleanor Holthaus bumps the ball to her teammates during the volleyball game against University of Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum on Oct. 3. The Cyclones lost 3-1.

Specifically, Johnson-Lynch wants to focus on continuing to do the small things, which she says is the primary reason Iowa State pulled itself out of its funk in the first place.

"We've tried to throw in a bunch of little things to help us become more competitive and get used to a faster pace,"Johnson-Lynch said. "And I think those things have helped."

Lazard stepping up

Last week, players mentioned in interviews that senior middle blocker Grace Lazard has been instrumental in the team's turnaround, thanks largely to her play and vocal leadership.

Lazard's play has certainly taken a noticeable jump this year. Defensively, she's maintained her blocks/set rate from last year while more than doubling her digs/set (0.31 to 0.73).

She's also improved in terms of her offensive efficiency, bringing her hitting percentage from .279 percent last year to .332 percent in 2018. Combined with her increased leadership role, the argument can be made Lazard might be one of the most important players on Iowa State's roster.

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Middle blocker Grace Lazard spikes the ball during the volleyball game against University of Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum on Oct. 3. The Cyclones lost 3-1.

Lazard said it was important for her, as a senior, to take on a leadership role with Iowa State going through a rough stretch, in order set the tone for the rest of the team.

"It's easy to give up or disengage right when we're losing, but it's just about not giving up and setting an example for others on the team," Lazard said. "I think it's just important to have people on the team who are vocally engaged at all times."

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