116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State volleyball didn’t have an easy time of it last season.
No team did.
The Big 12 decided to play during the fall and then the NCAA decided its tournament would be in the spring, so the Cyclones essentially had two separate seasons.
Add in COVID-19 and injuries and Iowa State went 8-12 overall and had four cancellations.
“It was really hard to play in the fall and feel like you’re the first ones,” ISU Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “I was glad we played — we had a lot better luck playing in the fall than we did the spring. But it was still hard to figure this thing out as you went.
“It was hard, but yet we grew really close as a team. Between injuries and COVID, they grew very close through the adversity and they had a great attitude. I thought we had great leadership with our seniors Izzy and Piper. It was memorable and worthwhile in a weird way. Long term, we’ll take a lot of the things we learned from that.”
Iowa State will need to take a lot of those lessons into this year if it wants to get back to the level it is expected to be at. ISU had advanced to the NCAA Tournament every year from 2006 (Johnson-Lynch’s second season) to 2017, then again in 2019.
The Cyclones added eight new pieces this season, including setter Jaden Newsome, a Missouri transfer, defensive specialist Marija Popovic, a Pitt transfer and outside hitter Solei Thomas, a Clemson transfer.
All three are graduate transfers and all three expected to compete for starting spots — especially Newsome and Popovic since setter Piper Mauck and libero Izzy Enna graduated.
No matter what, Iowa State will have a new face at setter and a new face at libero.
“It’s so weird because we return so many hitters — pretty much all the hitters from last year — but yet we look like a way different team,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That’s a very strange thing. And it’s because whoever wins the setter spot will be a newcomer and whoever wins libero will be a new person. We have such a different look to us even though we return a lot.
“The newcomers are doing awesome. Having graduate transfers as new people is so different because they have so much maturity. It’s way different than bringing in freshmen. It’s going to take some time but we’re figuring out where to put people so they can make the most of what they can do.”
Iowa State returns the only Tokyo Olympian in middle blocker Candelaria Herrera, who played for Argentina.
“She came back at another level,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That’s what I had hoped. She was playing with and against the best players in the world and that forces you to become a better player. She is really dominant. She’s going to take a big step up.”
The Cyclones also return All-Big 12 middle blocker Avery Rhodes, right side hitter Eleanor Holthaus and outside hitter Annie Hatch.
If the Cyclones get the first two touches figured out, they should have no problem terminating.
“I feel very comfortable about the front line but it’s still very new even though we return almost all of the same hitters,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Any year you have a new setter, it’s going to feel different. We’re still tweaking some things and trying to figure some things out but, man, we have some great options for our hitters. I think we’ll have a few people emerge as real terminators. And then I think we’ll have other players that will be our glue-type players.
“Our offense, week one, looked rough. This week has been a lot better.”