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Iowa State volleyball pushes past nerves in NCAA first round sweep of Princeton

Cyclones host Wisconsin in second round Saturday

AMES – Hilton Coliseum hosted the NCAA volleyball tournament for the first time since 2012 Friday night.

The home court treated the Iowa State volleyball team well as it cruised to a sweep of Princeton, 25-21, 25-17, 25-14.

“Coming out and seeing that crowd was really cool,” ISU Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “It reminds you of what a special place this is, how important volleyball is to Ames, Iowa State and how well supported we are. This atmosphere doesn’t happen a lot of places.”

Hilton Coliseum housed 3,033 fans on Friday.

Junior outside hitter Jess Schaben said it was the coolest feeling coming out to that many fans. However, Johnson-Lynch believes it led to her team having some nerves during the first two sets.

She said nerves can be even more of a factor playing at home because there’s some added pressure. She expected the nerves and talked to her team before the match about how to deal with them.

“I was confident they would come out of it,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I think every single team that’s playing in the tournament is a little tight. It’s hard to be completely relaxed and yourself from point one. It was totally natural and expected and I knew, give us a little time and we’d find our groove. I really thought we did that the second half of the match.”

No. 11 Iowa State (22-6) trailed the Tigers (18-8) halfway through the second set, 15-13 at the media timeout. The Cyclones ended the set on a 12-2 run and took that momentum right into the final set.

“The last part of the second set and the third set, it was like, ‘Alright, there we are. That’s us,’” Johnson-Lynch said.

Schaben and junior middle blocker Grace Lazard led the Cyclones’ charge, each tallying 14 kills in the match. Iowa State had five hitters tally six or more kills in the match.

The balanced attack was key for the Cyclones throughout the match.

“It’s hard to predict for the other team, especially running a 5-1 because you never know who’s going to get set, really,” Lazard said. “I’m about terminating the ball so every time I get the ball, I’m going to finish it off.”

Lazard finished the game with a .522 hitting percentage. That dominance forced two blockers on her, freeing up Schaben on the outside.

While the juniors dominated the match statistically, the seniors were the ones that kept the Cyclones calm and didn’t let things unravel when Iowa State trailed in the second set.

“I think this is a pretty special group,” Johnson-Lynch said. “This senior class, they don’t come along like this very often. Our senior class is a special group, I think that leadership has allowed us to really have some nice team chemistry.”

Iowa State hosts Wisconsin (21-9) in the second round at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Badgers swept Marquette in the first round Friday, 27-25, 25-21, 25-11.

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