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#17 Candelaria Herrera and #11 Piper Mauck blocking a hit by Penn State. Iowa State Volleyball faced Penn State on Friday Sept. 6. Penn State won 3-0.

In a sweeping win over Kansas, Iowa State gained its first win in conference play this season. But it was a far different aspect of the Cyclones’ game which pushed the team to victory.

The Cyclone attack did its part to give the Cyclones the lead during the match, but it was the team's block which kept the game out of reach for the Jayhawks.  However, back row defensive improvement is still needed for the team.

“I thought our blocking was really the standout, the highlight of the night,” coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said.

Iowa State had several individual standouts, including both middle blockers. Candelaria Herrera led all players with six blocks and Avery Rhodes was second with five.

Jenna Brandt, who is filling in for Piper Mauck at setter, added four blocks. Brandt is listed at five-feet, 10-inches tall, but still was able to contribute in Mauck’s place. Mauck is listed at six-foot one.

The Cyclones had 11 blocks in the match and held the Jayhawks to a hitting percentage of .126. The Cyclones hit .283.

So far this season, the Cyclones have averaged 2.1 blocks per set, but they averaged 3.67 blocks per set against Kansas.

Josie Herbst, a senior outside hitter, said the difference in the Cyclones’ play on Wednesday was the communication by Iowa State and the team being able to execute on the defensive end.

Improving the block — and entire defense — has been an emphasis this season and Herbst said the team has been dedicating 30 to 40 minutes every practice just to work on the block.

Technically speaking, Johnson-Lynch said the team has been working on closing the block — which means the two defensive players participating in the block have near perfect timing and are able to have their hands meet above the net to make the block.

“We have been really focused on closing the block — getting all four hands next to each other and not leaving gaps,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Johnson-Lynch said if the Cyclones are able to replicate their effort on Wednesday aganst the rest of the Big 12, they will be in ‘good shape’ for the rest of conference play.

Herbst said when the defense and block are doing its part, the team is able to stay in rythm.

When the offense does fall out of rhythm, Johnson-Lynch said it can be attributed to the defense not keeping balls in play.

Every set, Johnson-Lynch said there are two to four balls the team could have kept alive, so the defense behind the block needs to step up.

Johnson-Lynch wants to establish a ‘scrappy’ defense behind the block where those two to four balls every set are kept up and in play.

In doing so, the Cyclones will be able to keep the team in rythm on defense and on the attack, which will lead to rallies for the Cyclones and kill rallies for their opponants.

With how rapidly the team has been advancing this season on the attack, the defense looks like it is in line for the same growth  this young Cyclone team.

“We get a lot of balls every single practice so it’s like every single day we step up and improving stuff,” Herrera said.

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