The wait was extremely nerve-racking for the Iowa State volleyball team, but the team heard its name called during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night, allowing the players to breathe and know they're heading to the NCAA volleyball tournament.
While the selection calmed the Cyclones, the team has gone right back to preparing for a matchup against Stanford in the opening round on Friday.
With a 16-11 record along with an 8-8 record in the Big 12 Conference, the Cyclones were not sure whether or not they would be selected to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch discussed just how tense the room was, saying that no one really knew where the team was going to end up.
“We were sweating it for sure,” Johnson-Lynch said. “This might be the first time when I feel like I just didn’t know.”
The Cyclones currently sit at 5-0 in neutral site games, which likely played a role in the team’s tournament selection.
Iowa State was selected to play in Minneapolis, posing a slight advantage for Iowa State as Stanford is located much further away. The Cyclones will have less travel time and the shorter trip can help to bring in some more fans.
“It’s really nice to play local. I always like taking a bus somewhere rather than flying,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We’ve played there a bunch. We’ve already played there once this year so there is a lot of familiarity there.”
The players are approaching the game just as any other, by remaining calm and treating it as just another game.
Adding extra stress or looking ahead to what could happen if the team makes a run are seen as distractions to the task at hand.
Keeping the younger players focused is one of the biggest tasks that comes with an NCAA Tournament bid. This is something that they have spent most of their lives dreaming about, yet they still need to remain calm in order to have success.
Older players like Senior Eleanor Holthaus are using their time to ease the stress of the players. This senior class has played in many big games with Iowa State, and they know the importance of having everyone play at the top of their games, without any distractions.
“Just reassure them that it is just another game. It is the tournament, but for us it is just another game, where we need to focus on ourself,” Holthaus said.
Iowa State has played matches against Texas and Baylor, which were each seeded amongst the top five teams, along with Minnesota, Penn State and three other Big 12 schools that all made the NCAA Tournament.
Playing against all of these top teams made for a very difficult schedule for the Cyclones, yet made a very big impact on the success of the team. Iowa State needed everything they had to win many matches against these teams, and the players believe that it will matter come Friday.
“I think it just prepares us even better,” Jaden Newsome said. “Every team that we played in the Big 12 was a good competition, great teams, so I think that just prepared us for our upcoming game.”