volleyball NCAA tournament 2021

Iowa State volleyball huddles after recording a point against Stanford at the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State’s season came to an end in Minneapolis, as the Stanford Cardinal claimed a first round victory by a score of three sets to one and advanced to play the winner of South Dakota and Minnesota.

Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch began the postgame press conference by congratulating Stanford and the great tradition the school has.

She then shifted the focus to the effort her team showed against a very difficult opponent.

“I loved how we battled,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I loved how our team fought. I couldn’t say more about what we did tonight. There were stretches where I felt like if we could’ve just sided out or got a better pass a little sooner, those last two sets we would’ve been right there.”

“They were together tonight. They fought together. They were brave, they took some big swings against a big block, and I’m just really, really proud of how they played. It’s not been a smooth season for us. We’ve had our fair share of adversity, but we’ve just hung in there and hung in there to get us to this point.”

Sitting next to her were seniors Eleanor Holthaus and Candelaria Herrera, two players who have given everything and more to the program they fell in love with, and they gave everything they had once again tonight.

Holthaus put up another double-double, tallying 15 kills and 12 digs while Herrera had 12 kills and four blocks.

The pair have spent a long time together as teammates and friends, and regardless of how their season ended, the impact this group has had on one another cannot be overstated.

Holthaus NCAA celebration

Eleanor Holthaus smiles after recording a point against Stanford in the NCAA tournament on Dec. 3.

“Four years with a group of girls is a long time,” Holthaus said. “What I take away from that is that I’m very grateful. I have fought day after day with these girls, and we gave it our all. We show up every day and do our thing, and I’m just really grateful to have this experience and opportunity and to do it with them by my side.”

Spending all this time away from her home country of Argentina, Herrera was fortunate to find a new home in Ames.

Ending her career as one of the best players at her position in school history, the senior reflected on her years spent as a Cyclone.

“I remember the first time I came to Iowa State,” Herrera said. “It was amazing. I knew it was my family. It wasn’t hard to get along, and it has been like that and better through the years. Like Eleanor said, I’m just grateful. Each of my teammates have taught me something.”

Candelaria Herrera NCAA Tournament vs Stanford celebration

Candelaria Herrera celebrates with teammates after scoring against Stanford in the NCAA tournament on Dec. 3.

Johnson-Lynch has had the honor of coaching these players, and Holthaus and Herrera didn’t disappoint in the season-ending match.

Admiring their performances, the appreciation Johnson-Lynch had for her players was clear to see.

“I guess if you’re gonna go out, you hope you go out fighting, and these two here next to me, I think it was maybe the best match of the season for them,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I love the leadership they showed tonight, and I couldn’t be more proud of how they battled and how they competed tonight. Two tremendous women sitting next to me, great leaders and great women, and I’m really proud of them.”

While Herrera has exhausted her eligibility and will be moving on from Iowa State, Holthaus still has to make a decision on whether she’ll use her waiver year or not.

Regardless, the program is in a good place.

“It’s ready,” Holthaus said. “We’re here. The girls coming through are gonna compete, they’re gonna work hard and they’re gonna show up every day like we did. You know, it’s an amazing place. Iowa State is home to me and it’s home to [Candelaria]. It’s home to every single girl on this team. We’re ready to compete, and it’s gonna continue to be a fight. Forever, probably.”

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