AMES — Iowa State volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch believes her team is primed to be in good shape to start the 2020 season despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big 12 volleyball players are allowed to return to campus and begin voluntary workouts July 1.
“It’s a tough situation to be in for any team but I like the leadership we have in place to keep us going and keep us motivated,” Johnson-Lynch said.
The reason Johnson-Lynch believes her team is in a good spot as sports begin to resume is because the Cyclones graduated just one player from last year’s NCAA tournament team.
“We were pretty young last year — almost all of our team were freshmen and sophomores so we took some bumps here and there but we also gained a lot of experience,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I’m super excited about next season and to see what all of our players have done over the summer to get better and how well they’ve worked out.
“We’re in an advantageous spot because we didn’t graduate much and we have a group that knows what’s happening and knows our system. I think we’ll be a step ahead of other teams who lost a lot of players.”
The Cyclones will be led by three seniors — setter Piper Mauck, middle blocker Candelaria Herrera and libero Izzy Enna.
Herrera had been playing volleyball non-stop since 2018 before the pandemic. This rest is much needed for the San Juan native. She was an integral piece to the Argentina national team that qualified for the Olympics last summer.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“If the pandemic wouldn’t have happened, she’d be training for the Olympics right now, which is amazing,” Johnson-Lynch said. “But the silver lining is she now has another year to prepare and she needs some time to rest her body. While she’s missing out on the opportunity to play in the Olympics right now, she’ll be able to get that next summer.
“I think she’ll come back even more ready to go with the added rest.”
Herrera is one of the many pieces to what Johnson-Lynch believes will be a high-powered offense.
She had a team-best .314 hitting percentage while tallying 238 kills, fourth on the team.
Iowa State’s most potent offensive weapon last season had to cut her season short because of an ankle injury at the end of the season. Eleanor Holthaus led Iowa State in kills with 308 while hitting .254.
“We lost her at the very end of last season to a pretty severe ankle injury and she ended up needing surgery on that,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Her return hasn’t been fast and she needed to rehab all spring but she’s been keeping up with her rehab. But she was an All-Big 12 player for us and she has a huge impact on our team.
“We need her back in the same role, or bigger role this fall. That’s the plan and that’s what we expect from her.”
Annie Hatch, who was named to the All-Big 12 freshman team, recorded 280 kills, second best on the team. She needs to clean up her errors as she led the team with 115, but Johnson-Lynch believes her young, powerful arm will do that.
Like Holthaus, Johnson-Lynch wants Hatch to expand her role so she can play all six rotations.
Maybe no Iowa State player had as interesting of a year as Michal Schuler. Schuler was recruited as an outside hitter but when she arrived at Iowa State last season, Johnson-Lynch moved the 6-foot freshman to libero, where she played most of the season.
But in Iowa State’s last three matches, she moved back to outside hitter. It wasn’t because she was playing poorly at libero — she recorded 30 digs in the match before the move and had 14 total matches with at least 10 digs. But Johnson-Lynch was toying with moving Schular back outside in practice and she liked what she saw. The move proved to be a fruitful one.
She recorded 16 kills against Kansas, 15 against Texas and nine against Creighton in the NCAA tournament.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“She’s kind of that glue player that can pass the ball, play every rotation, play good defense, be good offensively, serve tough — she does it all,” Johnson-Lynch said of Schuler. “We got to see just a little bit of what she can do last season but this spring she was training as a full-time outside hitter and all signs are pointing to her being a great player for us.”
While Iowa State’s offense is essentially a given, especially with Mauck distributing the ball as the setter, Johnson-Lynch wants some of that defensive peskiness Iowa State had in the early and mid-2010s.
“We’re solid defensively, but there’s another level we have to be at to be great,” she said.