Iowa State volleyball lost in straight sets to the top-ranked Texas Longhorns Friday night. At times, the team looked like they were on the verge of taking over, and at times they couldn’t buy a point.
A dive into the box score can give a decent explanation as to how the night went, but what’s more important is how the past 16 years have gone leading into Friday's match-up.
After taking over a struggling program in 2004, Iowa State volleyball head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch has led an unprecedented run of success for the Iowa State volleyball program. The Cyclones have made the NCAA Championships 13 out of her 16 years and they hold a winning percentage of .652 over the past 500 matches.
It was Johnson-Lynch’s 500th match at the helm for the Cyclones on Friday, and her mark on the program can be seen in both the present and the past. Bad coaching is quite easy to spot, but good coaching is often quiet and subtle. That’s what you’ll see on any given night while watching an Iowa State volleyball match.
Senior Eleanor Holthaus summed up what makes her coach so special.
“Christy does a really good job,” she said. “On the bench she’s very mellow, but she has her job and makes sure we know our role and what we need to do out there. She leads in such a different way. She’s not screaming at us all the time. She keeps us calm and collected, and she does a very good job at keeping us together and keeping us balanced, and reassuring us at times when we need it.”
In the national media, Iowa State has the history of being viewed as a stepping stone. When Fred Hoiberg would make the jump to the NBA was often debated. Sports like volleyball may not draw as much attention or drama from the talking heads as football and basketball, but there’s still a stigma that has been cast aside and changed by people like Johnson-Lynch.
“I’ve loved my time here,” she said. “I’ve been here a long time and there’s a reason for that. It’s a great place. My family loves it here. We feel very loved and taken care of here, we’re appreciated and valued, and when that happens you don’t even entertain thoughts of leaving because you love where you are so much."
"I think it’s really a reflection of that, just the support we’ve had both from our administration, from the athletic department and from the community. It’s a pretty awesome, special and unique place. I’ve always felt like this is the place for me, and the grass is not greener somewhere else. It’s just been a really great place for me and my family.”
So, Iowa State lost. Sometimes they looked good, and sometimes they looked bad.
For the past 500 matches it’s been mostly good, and that’s something special that Johnson-Lynch has helped make possible.