The Iowa State volleyball team returned to Hilton Coliseum on Friday for the first time since November and took home a win. The Cyclones defeated Division II opponent Wayne State College 3-1 to improve to an overall record of 7-12, as well as 2-3 during the spring season.
The Cyclones' return to their home court marks the end to a very long and unpredictable season, as the COVID-19 Pandemic has shifted the schedules of many sports teams across the country. Iowa State is no exception, as their first three home matches against Illinois State and Oklahoma respectively were all cancelled due to the protocols of the Missouri Valley and Big 12 Conferences respectively.
Nevertheless, Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch had a positive outlook on the way her team has taken this season in, saying, "I'm just proud of the way they've hung in there and kept battling through a rough spring. We've got some players playing different roles, playing out of position or at new positions, and they keep working hard and just doing what we ask."
The Cyclones' win against the Wildcats was marked by big offensive plays throughout the match, as both teams tried to get an edge through their front line's kills and blocks.
Iowa State's trio of hitters in sophomores Annie Hatch and Kenzie Mantz, as well as junior Eleanor Holthaus provided most of the scoring chances for their team, finishing with 57 of the team's 65 kills. Holthaus led all players with 22, as the Richmond, Minnesota, native was relentless in her attack, finishing with a 0.309 hitting percentage. Freshman Alexis Engelbrecht has also provided a boost for the Cyclones, hitting 0.438 to finish with eight kills and five blocks.
Holthaus was recently moved from the right to outside hitting position in the starting rotation due to changes in the team's roster. Since that time, she has been at the forefront of her team's attack and has knotted 48 total kills over the past three matches. For Holthaus, the position change has also been a shift in her responsibilities of the Cyclones' rotations.
"It's definitely an adjustment" Holthaus said, "You get a lot of more out-of-system sets on the outside and get a lot more swings. My teammates are very good at setting me up and putting me in a great position to be able to score."
Setting up the attack for Holthaus and Iowa State was senior setter Piper Mauck, who had another strong passing game with 50 of her team's 59 total assists. Mauck's double-digit passing streak is now at 11 games in-a-row dating back to the Cyclones' 3-2 loss to West Virginia on Nov. 6, when she provided 28 assists. She also knotted 52 and 47 passes against DePaul on March 12 and 13.
For Mauck, the secret to her consistency in the passing game is still unknown, saying "I don't know, I don't pay much attention to the stats. Kenzie [Mantz] and Eleanor both had a really nice game on both ends of the floor, so I feel like I have great options with any hitter, and that allows me to get those kinds of numbers."
The Cyclones got out of the blocks fast in the first set, building a 6-2 lead before Wayne State called their first timeout on a kill-assist combo by Holthaus and Mauck. The match was filled with plays involving players constantly diving on the floor, as both teams tried to swing the momentum in their favor.
Iowa State eventually opened the lead out to 20-11 on a kill by Engelbrecht, but Wayne State closed the lead to five, saving two set points. The Cyclones were third time luck however, as Holthaus knotted another kill to take the first set 25-19.
The second set was another tight encounter, as both teams had exchanged the lead five times before the the Cyclones called their first timeout down 17-15 to the Wildcats. From there, Iowa State went on a 10-5 run, taking the lead at 23-22 on a kill by Hatch, who also helped in closing out the set on a block with Engelbrecht.
Set three was almost a copy of the previous one, as the Wayne State again took their first timeout leading 17-15 over Iowa State. This time however, the Wildcats would extend their lead coming out of the timeout, with another big play at the net on a block by the freshman duo of Isabelle Vacek and Taya Beller, eventually closing it out 25-23.
The Cyclones would go on to close out the match in the fourth set, taking the lead back from the Wildcats at 18-14 before Alexis Engelbrecht finished things off with a kills to take it 25-19.
For Mauck and her team, the opportunity to play the Wildcats one last time is an exciting one, as she said, "Wayne State is a fun team [to play against] because they're scrappy and have a lot of different shots than other teams we've played."
The Cyclones face off against the Wildcats again tomorrow at 11 am in Hilton Coliseum to close out the 2020-21 season.