Losing is disappointing. Though it is important to keep in perspective what can be learned from setbacks on the court or the field of play that does not take away the feelings after the fact. No one likes being a part of a loss, but in the end you have to move on and keep working to improve on what has happened in the past.
The Iowa State volleyball team is currently 5-4. Before digging deeper into the 5-4 start this season, it should be noted that Iowa State was 5-4 after nine matches last season. Though the Cyclones played more ranked teams early last season (six top-25 opponents) compared to this season (three top-25, and two receiving votes squads), that should not take away the strength of the sides the current Iowa State squad has faced.
Let’s begin with the positives, the good teams we have beat. Though Iowa State does not have a win over a top-25 opponent this season, not having a number beside the name should not detract from the quality of some of Iowa State’s wins this season. The Cyclones defeated Texas A&M to win the UND Classic back on Aug. 31. The Aggies have started the season with a 7-2 record. At their home tournament last weekend, A&M swept No. 16 Florida State before taking No. 7 Michigan to five sets. Texas A&M will be one of the favorites in the SEC this year.
UNI now stands at 6-4 after a win at Saint Louis and a home double-header sweep of Green Bay this weekend. After losing to the Cyclones in five sets, the Panthers went to Fargo, N.D. and took No. 25 Wisconsin to five sets before sweeping No. 17 Louisville and sweeping a very good North Dakota State team. The Panthers and Wichita State will battle it out to be the conference champions of the Missouri Valley.
Dayton was able to rebound from being swept by the Cyclones by taking down St. Mary’s in five sets Saturday evening. Dayton is 4-5, but their five losses have come against either ranked teams (Iowa State, Nebraska and North Carolina) or teams not far away (Ohio and Missouri State). The Flyers were picked in the preseason to win the Atlantic 10.
Now the four Iowa State losses. The first loss came to then-No. 14 San Diego. The Toreros started the season unranked, but shot up to 14th after one week due to taking Texas to five sets and accomplishing one of the most difficult feats in college volleyball, defeating Hawai’i at Hawai’i. Their run continued with wins over the Cyclones and Illinois in Ames. USD finally got a home match last weekend, but it was against No. 1 USC. The Toreros once again showed their strength against the Trojans, dismissing the nation’s top squad in four sets. San Diego is now 7-1 with only a five-set loss to Texas its blemish of the season. Don’t be surprised to see them in the top-five when the rankings come out later today.
Iowa State and Illinois are in similar situations at the moment. ISU is 5-4, while the Illini is 4-4. Not only do both teams share a “4” in the loss column, they also share a group of losses against strong opponents. The Illini lost at Long Beach State in between wins over ranked squads in Florida State and Kentucky. After going 1-1 in Ames with a win over Iowa State and a loss to San Diego, Illinois, the Fighting Illini finally returned home to a daunting home tournament. They started with a five-set win over Arizona State. The Sun Devils would sweep Texas that evening. The same day, the Illini lost to No. 6 Washington in four. The next day, Illinois took Texas to five sets before losing. Illinois has another ranked opponent this weekend at North Carolina, and will see plenty more in the Big Ten with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin all still on the schedule.
The Dayton-St. Mary’s match that was right before our match against Nebraska was an interesting conundrum for the ISU schedule. What would help Iowa State more: a team we had handily beat defeating a very good team or a team who just defeated Iowa State beating a team we swept? In the end, there was really no bad result that could come from it. St. Mary’s is 4-3 now with losses to Nebraska, Dayton and at Colorado. Like San Diego, SMC is a member of the West Coast Conference and will have ample opportunities to play quality opponents and get quality wins such as BYU, Pacific, Pepperdine and San Diego. The Gaels also play at Stanford this Friday, another chance for a good win.
Then there is Nebraska. On paper it seemed like the door would be open for the Cornhuskers to be a bit off, and the No. 12 ranking, unusually low for any NU team, made it seem that way. Then you factor in that the Huskers have eight freshmen on their roster. However, led by the Rolfzen twins the Cornhuskers have been very strong this season, save a loss to Auburn in St. Louis. They will get another chance at a quality win this weekend at Texas, plus will have many chances in the Big Ten.
At the end of the day, Christy Johnson-Lynch schedules tough because she believes it is what is best for her squad. It showed last year when Iowa State made the Sweet Sixteen, and the opportunity is there again this season. A few losses early in the season will not change that, Iowa State will have another tough non-conference schedule next season. However, everything needs to be taken one match at a time, and that next match is at Iowa this Saturday at 7 p.m.