It's back to business for the Iowa State volleyball team, who will open a six-game spring season this weekend with a pair of matches against Saint Louis and No. 24 Marquette in Milwaukee.
The Cyclones finished with a 5-9 record during a fall season that had only featured Big 12 opponents but ended with three consecutive wins at Kansas and TCU at home and away, respectively. This spring, they will finish out the Big 12 season with a pair of home matches March 19 and 20 against Oklahoma.
Iowa State Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch, who is in her 16th season leading the Cyclones, is ready for action to return for the team.
"I think we'll find out a little bit more about ourselves through each of those matches," Johnson-Lynch said. "They're working hard; I'm really pleased with some the growth I've seen this spring."
The Cyclones return two seniors to their squad for the spring season in Izzy Enna and Piper Mauck. Enna enjoyed a strong outing this past fall, leading the Big 12 in digs with 4.70 per set. The team's third senior, Candelaria Herrera, opted to not play this spring season and instead, back in her home country of Argentina, she will train with the national team in hopes of making the roster for the Tokyo Olympics.
Johnson-Lynch expressed support for Herrera's decision.
"I can't say enough good things about [Herrera], she's a phenomenal human being, so that alone is a pretty cool thing to be around, and she's also a great player," Johnson-Lynch said. "We miss her, but there's no way that a person should pass up an opportunity like this, and she's going for it."
Herrera is an all-around player for Iowa State, being a key part of the Cyclones' attack by averaging 2.36 kills and a 0.271 hitting percentage while also averaging 1.11 blocks per set.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the Cyclones will first play against Saint Louis on Friday, who will enter the match with a 5-4 record and their most recent result being a win against Davidson last weekend.
The Billikens boast defending A-10 Player of the Year in senior Kennedy Cordia, who recorded a hitting average of 0.331 across the three matches against the Wildcats, who only won one game against Saint Louis.
Iowa State will then play hosts to No. 24 Marquette on Saturday, who come into the meeting with a 6-2 record (2-0 in Big 12 play). The Golden Eagles come into this matchup having recently beaten DePaul three sets to none Feb. 12, part of a three-game winning streak against the Blue Demons and Creighton.
This will be the Cyclones' fifth meeting against Marquette, having dropped the last meeting in 2016 3-0 in Milwaukee. In both of these matches, Johnson-Lynch said the main strategy is more focused toward the beginning of each play.
"We've been working a lot on our serve," Johnson-Lynch said. "We're trying not just to serve the ball in but serve it very tough. The number one thing that I'd like to see from us is that our servers really drive the ball, 'cause problems for the other team and get their setters to chase the ball down."
The Cyclones currently have a 90 percent serving percentage on the season while also having served 60 aces, compared to their opponents' combined 69.
Johnson-Lynch also commented on the general outlook for her team this weekend.
"Both the teams we play this weekend are very physical," Johnson-Lynch said. "It's our first outing, and I just want to see us play really hard, I want to see us serve tough, play great defense, keep the ball alive and get into some really good rallies."
Iowa State begins its spring volleyball season at 3 p.m. Friday against Marquette at the Al McGuire Center and is back on the court again at 2 p.m. Saturday. Both matches will be streamed live on the Golden Eagles' all-access, with live results also being found on their website.