After having a negative hitting percentage in Iowa State’s previous game, Iowa State’s most efficient hitter, Candelaria Herrera, returned to form in a 3-0 win against Kansas State on Saturday.
Herrera struggled against Oklahoma on Oct. 19 and hit -.056, which is only the second time this season she has hit below .000. Entering the match against Kansas State, Herrera ranked third in the Big 12 Conference in hitting percentage and against the Wildcats, she hit .500.
Iowa State didn’t have a game on Wednesday, which allowed the team to focus on improving the Cyclones’ offensive attack, which has been a struggle in Iowa State’s last several games.
Entering the week after the Oklahoma loss, Herrera said she just focused on Kansas State in an effort to flush out her “bad” performance against the Sooners.
Against Kansas State, Herrera was involved early and she had three kills and a .429 hitting percentage after one set. She then pushed her totals to eight total kills and a .533 hitting percentage in the second set and she finished with 11 kills and a .500 hitting percentage.
Herrera was making all sorts of shots for the Cyclones during the match from cross-court shots on the slide, to spiking overpasses, Herrera was finding gaps in the Wildcat defense all match long.
In the second set, Iowa State had lost a brief lead late in the match and the game was tied at 22. Herrera then had two straight kills to give the Cyclones a 24-22 lead. The Wildcats cut the lead to 24-23 on a kill, but a serving error by them the following series gave the Cyclones the second set win.
Aside from being efficient during the game, Herrera was able to generate momentum for the Cyclones from her hitting.
When Herrera is hitting so well, setter Piper Mauck said it has a major effect on the offense.
“I mean it allows us to open things up for everybody, so it gives outside hitters a great opportunities for one-on-ones and it really allows me to kind of spread the offense as even as I can,” Mauck said.
With Herrera hitting so well at middle blocker, Mauck said she has confidence setting to every single hitter on the court.
Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said she has seen great improvements from Herrera, especially on the slide.
From the preseason into the regular season, Johnson-Lynch said Herrera struggled with the slide since it was a maneuver she wasn’t used to performing.
“She really struggled on the slide even the first few weeks of the season and now I think she’s pretty automatic on it, so she’s hitting the slide well," Johnson-Lynch said. "She’s pretty explosive, she’s pretty fast on it, she can hit a couple different shots on it."
Last season Herrera began the season as an outside hitter, but she transitioned to middle blocker due to team necessity and it wasn’t until the end of the season she began to learn the slide in the Cyclones’ offense.
In addition, Herrera was playing for the Argentinian national team over the summer and Johnson-Lynch said Herrera wasn’t asked to perform slides very often and when she did, the speed of the sets with the national team are much faster than the sets Herrera sees with Iowa State.
After more time with the Cyclones, Herrera has been able to practice the slide more and also develop timing on the set from Mauck.
Aside from more repetitions, Herrera said she is feeling much more confident this season.
Herrera joined the team almost right before the season started last season and she said there was an adjustment period where she had to get used to her new teammates and her new position of middle blocker.
With her confidence at a high since joining the program, Herrera has become an important cog in Iowa State’s offense.