Iowa State volleyball finished its season 16-12 after being knocked out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Stanford. While the Cyclones did not achieve the result they wanted to, the team definitely had a lot of good things to reflect on.
Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch’s preseason focus was on having one of the best defenses in the Big 12 Conference, and the country was fulfilled. The team also saw a few rising stars that will be impactful as their careers go on.
The Cyclones placed goals before the season, with many of them focused on the defensive side of things. Iowa State is known for top-tier defense, especially in the back row, and this year’s team was no different.
Iowa State finished the season third in the Big 12 in opponent hitting percentage during the regular season, sitting at .184. The Cyclones finished second in the conference in digs per set, posting an impressive 15.22.
On top of the team accolades, Iowa State also had some individuals making a big impact defensively. Highlighting these individuals was Big 12 Libero of the Year, Marija Popovic, who recorded a conference-leading 4.65 digs per set in the regular season.
Iowa State also had the conference leader in blocks per set in Candelaria Herrera. After averaging 1.28 blocks per set, Herrera was once again dominant at the net, easing the pressure from the rest of the defense.
Freshmen Allie Petry and Brooke Stonestreet both saw a lot of playing time in their opening seasons, allowing them to develop their games. Sophomore middle blocker Alexis Engelbrecht also saw a lot of playing time this season.
These players will likely be defensive pillars for Iowa State during the coming years, with Popovic, Herrera and more on the way out. Outside hitters and powerful swingers will be a need for the Cyclones, but with a defense-first mentality, the team may not face any major problems.
Eleanor Holthaus, Taylor Baranski and Brooke Andersen each have the option to return for a fifth season. Between the defensive culture that has been established and the underclassmen still gathering experience, getting a player or two back from this group could change the course of the next season.
Not only would it be huge for players such as Petry and Stonestreet to have another person to look up to, but having players that have been hitters on the team for years could be crucial for a team that will be facing a major question mark in that area of the game.