With a well-rested team coming off a bye week, Iowa State showed some signs of high-energy volleyball against Texas in the opening set but ultimately fell three sets to one Thursday.
Texas is currently the top-ranked team nationally according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, and with a 16-0 record, they leave little doubt as to why. Iowa State Head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch liked what she saw from the team during the opening set win but felt that the team lost its edge as the match went on.
"Defensively, we weren't working as hard as I think we have to work, some reads and some balls here and there that we just have to play, we have to be really good to match up with this team," Johnson-Lynch said.
Blocking, which is usually one of the biggest strengths for the Cyclones against their opponents, was very much a strong point of the match for Texas. The Longhorns tallied 17 blocks over four sets of play, while the Cyclones only managed four.
Johnson-Lynch put much of the blame for this discrepancy on the Cyclones' offense. Iowa State found themselves out of the system, often unable to get a proper pass to a hitter. Johnson-Lynch also faulted the decision-making of the hitters when the passing was on point.
"If you see a hitter hit the ball down close to the tape where there is no chance it's gonna make it over the net, that is a poor decision," Johnson-Lynch said. "We want our attackers hitting up at their hands and giving us a chance."
Iowa State finished the match with 37 kills and 37 attack errors, compiling a hitting percentage of .000. Johnson-Lynch understands that this will rarely be good enough to win and looks to improve the team's offensive play.
Freshman Allie Petry, who filled in for Marija Popovic at libero due to Big 12 health and safety protocols, mentioned that she is used to facing big players in practice, but it is still challenging when facing size in a match.
"In practice, we have had some practice players almost the same size as them, so it wasn't too different, but obviously as a freshman that's really intimidating," Petry said.
With Popovic out, the Cyclones needed some of the less experienced players to have an impact, and a pair of freshmen did just that. Allie Petry and Brooke Stonestreet each played a large portion of the match, each playing well defensively in the back row.
"I think Petry and Stonestreet, like I said I think their composure was a great sign of things to come," Johnson-Lynch said. "It's always hard when you are a freshman and you are playing in this environment against a really good team, but I thought they did their job."
The team had some things to look back on, both good and bad, but the team is ready to move on to the rematch at 7 p.m Friday. Johnson-Lynch said that one of the most exciting parts of volleyball is seeing what adjustments the opponents make and how her own team's adjustments pay off.