Despite an ‘OK’ defensive performance against South Dakota on Tuesday, Iowa State volleyball's attack provided a strong showing and a glimpse of what the offense could become.
The Cyclones swept South Dakota in three sets and registered the highest team hitting percentage of the three-game season. The hitting percentage has steadily increased each game as young players grow into or find their role on the team.
Iowa State had a hitting percentage of .189 against Central Florida and a percentage of .226 against Ole Miss, but against South Dakota — who won the Missouri Valley Conference last season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament — the Cyclones hit a strong .305.
The strong night was spearheaded by senior outside hitter Josie Herbst, who had 13 kills and a .500 hitting percentage. Herbst was able to vary up her shots — an area coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said Herbst has improved upon with consistency — by hitting the Coyote defense with shots across the court, down the line and by adding roll shots.
“She’s just growing as a senior,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I think she’s ready to take on more.”
Outside of Herbst, both freshman Annie Hatch and sophomore Eleanor Holthaus have been working on developing their tool box to be even more dynamic on the attack like Herbst.
Hatch, who already provides a whalloping arm on the attack, began the year on an inefficient note against Central Florida, but her efficiency and shot selection has been improving every single game.
Against UCF, Hatch had nine kills and nine errors for a hitting percentage of zero, but in the following match against Ole Miss, Hatch had 14 kills and cut the errors down to three for a hitting percentage of .195.
Against South Dakota on Tuesday, Hatch cut down her total errors by three — for a total of three errors — and had 13 kills, which tied Herbst for the most in the game.
Herbst attributed the improved efficiency by Hatch to what she has been working on in practice.
“We work on many different shots at practice,” Herbst said. “Hitting high hands and doing that roll shot to zone four has been really helpful for [Hatch].”
Like Hatch, Holthaus has seen the coaching staff work on tweaking her role on the attack.
“We’re trying to grow her into kind of what [Jess] Schaben did for us,” Johnson-Lynch said.
In Schaben’s sophomore year she began working on attacking from the back row, and by the time she was a senior, Johnson-Lynch said she was one of the best players in the country hitting from the back row.
The transition wasn’t smooth, though, and Johnson-Lynch noted that Schaben may not have even had a positive hitting percentage from the back row as a sophomore, but the team is dedicated to developing those skills even if they provide inefficient results.
As it is only the third game of the season, the coaching staff is continuing to work players into different positions and tweak with the lineup — against South Dakota, Hatch and Herbst switched spots on the rotation to positive results.
As the season progresses, the team will begin to find the most productive lineups as players like Hatch and Holthaus develop more comfortability within their roles of the offense.
“We’re finding our way and yeah I think there is great promise, but I still think we have a long ways to go,” Johnson-Lynch said.
If the team still has bounds left to improve, the Cyclone attack could become dangerously good with contributions from hitters like Herbst, Holthaus and Hatch, who guided the Cyclones to a .305 hitting performance in only the third game of the season.