The Iowa State volleyball team is coming off a bye week ready to face another strong team, this time it will face the No. 2 team in the country, the Baylor Bears.
Baylor is currently second in the Big 12 standings with a record of 7-1, while the Cyclones are currently 2-4.
Prior to the bye, the Cyclones faced the top-ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas, and got swept, and now they are looking to bounce back at home against Baylor.
But none of that makes a difference to Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch, who said it's just like every other year when they face Baylor and Texas.
"We've got to find time to work on ourselves and find time to prep for opponents," Johnson-Lynch said. "We're used to seeing both of those teams, they're pretty similar to what they were last year, not all that different. There aren't really any big surprises, it's more about execution."
The Cyclones may be used to seeing both of the top teams in the Big 12 every year, the bye came at a good time because Texas exposed some details the team needed to work on and they had extra days to work on that.
Johnson-Lynch said Baylor runs a fast offense, so having the extra days to work and prepare against the fast offense has been a nice adjustment.
To prepare for Baylor, redshirt junior middle blocker Avery Rhodes said the team has been working on transitioning and becoming more aggressive with serves.
"I think we've worked on a lot of transitioning and just working on that middle, right side transition," Rhodes said. "We want to be able to have them last for two days so we've been working a lot on that and we've also worked on aggressive serving just to make sure we keep them out of system."
Keeping Baylor out of its system is something Johnson-Lynch thinks can be a way to keep Baylor's hitters from taking over. It starts with the serve to get the Bears off the net and have Baylor's setters chase some balls down.
Johnson-Lynch also said the team needs to give Iowa State's setter good choices to put offensive pressure on Baylor and keep them scrambling.
To attack Baylor's tall blockers, Rhodes said they will have to hit high and know blocks will go in the Bears' favor. Rhodes knows Iowa State will have great cover in Taylor Baranski and Jaiden Centeno to pick up blocked balls to transition well.
With Rhodes being from Waco, Texas, she said she feels like her games against Baylor are always some of her best performances.
"I've always treated the Baylor matches personal because I was looking to go there when I was in the recruiting stage," Rhodes said. "So I always want to beat the team that didn't want to recruit me and almost prove them wrong, [show them] what they're missing. I feel like playing Baylor has always been one of my best matches of the year because those are the ones I just go all out and see what happens."
The Baylor doubleheader will be the first match for Iowa State volleyball with fans back in the seats inside Hilton Coliseum after Iowa State changed course and allowed fans to attend games.
In previous home matches only the Iowa State band and friends and family of the team were allowed inside so the volleyball team is pretty excited to get some of the Cyclone atmosphere back inside Hilton.
"We're really happy, we were talking about this after practice and everyone was like 'yes finally,'" said senior middle blocker Candelaria Herrera. "I think the warm environment the fans bring to us is such a nice feeling so it's going to help us to keep pushing and enjoy the game too."
Rhodes expanded and said how much of an advantage it is to have the fans, especially Iowa State fans who she said are known for being the best fans in the country, in the stands.
"I think it's a huge advantage," Rhodes said. "... Having them and hearing them on the court gives us so much more energy to play because we're playing for them not just us."
The Cyclones will face off against the Lady Bears at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.