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Editor’s note: This is third in a series counting down the Top 10 moments in Iowa State Cyclones women’s athletics history in the days leading up to the 50th anniversary of Title IX on Thursday.
AMES — Nebraska always loomed as Iowa State’s arch nemesis.
Christy Johnson-Lynch had ensured it remained that way as a standout Husker volleyball player in the mid-1990s, but early in her career as the Cyclones’ head coach, she helped her new team break through against Big Red.
ISU came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Nebraska for the first time on Oct. 21, 2009 in Lincoln — adding another landmark triumph among the several accrued under Johnson-Lynch’s guidance.
The rise of the Cyclones’ volleyball program, which includes two regional final (Elite Eight) and five regional semifinal (Sweet 16) appearances, already was in full flower — and the reason it sits at No. 3 on our list of Top 10 moments and achievements in ISU women’s sports since the onset of the Title IX era.
“There is so much pressure with the crowd and the tradition, and the fact that we had never beaten them,” Johnson-Lynch, a two-time All-America setter with the Huskers, told ESPN after the win against her alma mater. “We talked a lot about the crowd going into the match. ... You love to play there, but teams usually leave really disappointed.”
The latter word could have aptly described the mood of ISU volleyball fans most seasons before Johnson-Lynch was tabbed to lead the program in 2005.
But within three seasons, the Cyclones were in the Sweet 16. By season four — one year before the long-awaited win over Nebraska — ISU swept past No. 10 Minnesota in Minneapolis, as well as No. 7 Oregon in Austin, Texas, to reach the Elite Eight for the first time.
Two years later, in 2011, the Cyclones reached the Elite Eight again with former Cedar Rapids Kennedy standout Kristen Hahn helping out as a the Big 12’s best libero.
Since them, ISU has finished third or better in conference play in eight of the past 10 seasons, cementing itself among the nation’s most consistent programs.