The Iowa State volleyball team will face off against Kansas on Friday and Saturday in what could be its final home matches this season.
The Cyclones (2-8) are currently on a seven-game losing streak, with their last win coming Oct. 2 against Texas Tech.
That could all change this weekend with Kansas coming to town, as the Jayhawks are currently sitting with the same record as the Cyclones including an 0-4 record when they are playing on the road.
Iowa State Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch, however, is not putting much stock into the record when she is preparing the Cyclones for the Jayhawks.
Johnson-Lynch said Kansas is a solid and athletic team with good middle blockers who can affect the match.
“I don’t think their record reflects at all who they are,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I know they’ve had some people out and I think when they’re healthy they’re pretty dangerous… their middles are probably their standouts right now in terms of ability to affect the match with their block.”
Tall middle blockers is something the Cyclones have seen before, with the Big 12 possessing a number of teams who boast tall middle blockers.
However, that has left Iowa State with just a .186 hitting percentage on the season.
Johnson-Lynch thinks Kansas is one of the better blocking teams in the conference, with how big they are and how they can figure out who the setter is setting to.
The Cyclones will have to give the setters options and hit high against the big block so it doesn’t get blocked straight down.
One player who hasn’t played many of the big blockers this season is sophomore outside hitter Michal Schuler, who has been out most of the season due to an ankle injury.
Schuler was back last weekend against West Virginia, mainly playing back row, and Johnson-Lynch said she played well and had some nice serving runs as well as did really good defensively and killed some good back row balls.
Johnson-Lynch said Schuler adds another twist to the offense and helps the ball control.
Schuler said the journey to get back to playing was long and depressing at first, but that it felt really good to be back on the floor.
Now, she will also have to face one of the many teams with tall middle blockers along with the rest of her team.
“I think just hit high and not be afraid to attack the block because hitting high hands is also really hard to dig for their defense,” Schuler said. “Just hitting with confidence as well.”
Senior defensive specialist Izzy Enna said serving tough is also important against a team with big blockers, because it gets a team out of system and makes it harder for them to get kills.
“I think serving is super important this weekend, like it is every other weekend,” Enna said.
With the team on a losing streak like this one, and Iowa State volleyball not used to having a record like this under Johnson-Lynch, she is looking to the team leaders to step up to make sure the team doesn’t lose its energy and stays positive.
Johnson-Lynch said she continues to challenge the leaders to recognize when practices are low in energy and raise it and practice as hard as they can.
“People always say you play how you practice and I believe that’s very true,” Johnson-Lynch said. “... We’re really focused right now on effort and playing as hard as we can for as long as we can and enjoying this time.”
Enna said since she has been at Iowa State, the Cyclones have never had a losing streak like this, and with COVID-19, it’s been stressful, so a win against Kansas would be a big confidence and energy boost.
With Enna being a senior and this possibly being her last two matches at Hilton, she said her mindset is “anything is possible.”
“I always like to win, I do, but I know they’re going to be competitive and it’s going to be tough to get a win,” Enna said. “I’m just here to play and have fun, especially having my last games coming up.”
The Cyclones will face Kansas at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be at Hilton Coliseum.