A frustrating result on a frustrating night.
For only the second time since 2006, when volleyball was introduced as part of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk series, Iowa State found itself on the losing end of a match with the rival Hawkeyes. Getting a taste of their own medicine from last season's match, the Cyclones lost in four sets on Friday to drop the team's record to 7-5 on the season.
On paper, that may not appear concerning, but the five losses are actually the most in non-conference play since Christy Johnson-Lynch took over as Iowa State's head coach. After the game, Johnson-Lynch took the majority of the blame for the disappointing performance.
Coach Christi Johnson-Lynch’s opening statement after a 3-1 loss to Iowa pic.twitter.com/rHcmCtLsiJ— Jack Shover (@JackUShover) September 15, 2018
"I thought that they played loose and we played tight," Johnson-Lynch said. "That's on me. I feel responsible for not performing better."
A major area of weakness on the night for the Cyclones came on the serve, as the Cyclones had 13 service errors to only three aces. Johnson-Lynch attributes that to the team playing tentative, saying that the Cyclones weren't serving tough throughout the match.
Those service errors, combined with ongoing offensive struggles, seemed to consistently stop the team from gaining any momentum throughout the evening. There were multiple occasions during the match where Iowa State would start to climb back from a set deficit, but an error would stop any potential swing in its tracks.
"I feel like this was one of the matches where we couldn't make those runs," said junior outside hitter Josie Herbst. "It happened, we learned from it, so we're going to practice serving a lot in practice."
On the subject of practice, another explanation offered by Johnson-Lynch for the poor performance Friday was the lack of preparation time for Iowa State. While Johnson-Lynch said it wasn't an excuse the loss, she did lament the fact the Cyclones had to jump right into an important rivalry game just one night after a match against Wyoming.
Add that to the fact the Cyclone Classic is a home tournament, meaning that players were in class all of Friday, and Johnson-Lynch said the team didn't get a chance to prepare as they normally would for a game of this magnitude.
With that being said, Johnson-Lynch and players were quick to credit Iowa for their play throughout the match. In particular, outside hitters Taylor Louis and Cali Hoye garnered praise for their roles in the win, and Johnson-Lynch also credited the Hawkeyes' coaches for their in-game adjustments and tactics, some of which she said she didn't see coming.
The factors combined for a massive improvement over last year's Cy-Hawk result for Iowa, which currently sits at 6-3 after the win. Now in their second year under head coach Bond Shymansky, the Cyclones certainly noticed the strides made by the Hawkeyes in just one season.
"I think they're better than last year for sure," said senior outside hitter Jess Schaben. "We could've been a little more prepared, but we did what we could do."
Now, the Cyclones will have to regroup for one final game before conference play. The team battles Syracuse on Sunday before heading to West Virginia for a matchup on Wednesday.
The team's depth will be challenged going into the next phase of their schedule, as Johnson-Lynch announced that sophomore middle blocker Avery Rhodes will likely be done for the season after having hip surgery. Additionally, fellow sophomore middle blocker Meegan Hart's suffered a fracture of her finger, making her status unknown going forward.
Although the injuries, combined with losing four of the last six games, may make it hard to keep the faith, the Cyclones are still confident they can right the ship.
Johnson-Lynch and her players still believe the team has the talent and work ethic to put everything together, but Johnson-Lynch says it's on her as a coach to figure things out. Ultimately, though, she believes the team will eventually put the pieces together soon enough.
"I have great faith that we're going to be a really good team by the end of the season," Johnson-Lynch said. "This match is a learning opportunity, we've just got to figure out how we're going to make the most of who we have."