Iowa State volleyball team celebration

The Iowa State volleyball team celebrates after a point against Texas Tech on Oct. 3, 2020, at Hilton Coliseum.

After a 2020 season where so much was different, the Iowa State volleyball program went to Omaha for an exhibition match against Creighton last week to return to some kind of normalcy.

The match was a welcoming experience for the Cyclones as they hope for the 2021 season to be much better than last year’s.

Returning to normalcy

The Cyclones did not play any preseason matches before the beginning of last season. Add that on to the fact that they only played other Big 12 teams, and it made for a much different experience than what the players and coaches are used to. Now, after playing an exhibition match against Creighton last week, the team is starting to get back into the swing of “normalcy."

“I think it’s just good to get the season started again,” senior Avery Rhodes said. “We’re actually having a preseason; we’re actually seeing other teams outside of the conference, and I’m excited to see everybody and all the teams."

Rhodes talked about how surreal and special it was to be back playing together as a team. She's confident improvements will be made right away compared to where Iowa State was this time last year. Having any film helps, compared to last season when COVID-19 halted everything.

Fellow senior and middle-blocker Candelaria Herrera shared the same feelings as Rhodes when it comes to facing teams in exhibition before the games begin to count. Getting true reps where competitive speed isn't spent against teammates is a bonus to this off-season compared to last.

Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch saw her team face off against a different program in a preseason match for the first time in two years, and she also had some takeaways.

“The thing that stands out is our defense,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Johnson-Lynch said there's potential to have a "really, really good" defensive approach and is excited about the Cyclones' ball-handling, along with their serving. With new setters to get up to speed, Johnson-Lynch said there's still work to be done on offense but is happy with the progress they've made.

Reunited, and it feels so good

On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, injuries and circumstances played a crucial role in affecting Iowa State’s 2020 season. With Avery Rhodes getting hurt in the fall, Brooke Andersen getting hurt in the spring and Candelaria Herrera staying in Argentina in the spring to practice with the national team, the players are excited to be back together again.

“It feels pretty good,” Herrera said. “I’m very excited to be back with the team. I know our team can do great things, and I think everybody is just ready to go all in.”

Candelaria Herrera Baylor 2020

Middle blocker Candelaria Herrera gets set for a kill against Baylor on Oct. 23 at Hilton Coliseum. 

The middle-blocker tandem of Herrera and Rhodes didn’t get to spend much time on the court together last season. That is something that should play a huge difference for the Cyclones.

“It’s our last hoorah, so I just want it to be very fun and having everybody healthy makes it a lot more enjoyable,” Rhodes said. “I’m glad everybody’s healthy and I hope everybody stays healthy.”

Senior outside hitter Brooke Andersen injured her wrist in February and had to miss the spring portion of the schedule. After a long recovery, she says she feels a lot better as she continues to work the rust off and play better and better.

“I think a lot of it is that you never know when your number is going to get called,” Andersen said. “All of us are able to compete. I think it’s really important for everyone to keep that mindset that whatever it takes, that’s what we’re going to do to win. With everybody healthy and getting to have a more normal year, it’s going to be really exciting and really fun to get everyone in there and win some games.”

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