AMES – Iowa State volleyball (20-13, 9-7 Big 12) didn’t have the regular season it wanted.

The Cyclones were hit hard with injuries early in the season and couldn’t rebound from it. Iowa State finished third in the Big 12 but went just 7-6 in non-conference and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 13 years under coach Christy Johnson-Lynch.

But the Cyclones were invited to the National Invitational Volleyball Championships and they’re making the most out of their opportunity.

On Saturday in Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State punched its ticket to the NIVC Championship Game with a four-set win (31-29, 25-19, 13-25, 26-24) over UNLV in the semifinals.

“We’ve never played in the NIVC,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I don’t think I appreciated how much of a grind this is. We have had to dig deep these last couple of weeks. The NCAA Tournament just has a different feel.

“Their bodies are tired, they’re going into finals – there are a lot of reasons they could say, ‘You know what, I’ll go through the motions.’ But they’re not. They’re getting better and they’re showing so much courage. We have some tough kids.”

Iowa State was led by senior outside hitter Jess Schaben.

Schaben recorded a double-double with 24 kills and 13 digs. Schaben, a senior, was the only player for Iowa State to record at least 10 kills – Eleanor Holdhaus had nine and Candelaria Herrera had eight.

Schaben is also the vocal leader of the team.

“Jess always talks to us after every set about staying focused and we can’t let up, keep pushing and fighting,” outside hitter Josie Herbst.

Iowa State did lose its composure in the third set when it lost it 25-13. Iowa State hit just .100 in that set while UNLV his .448.

“In the third set we kind of let up a little bit,” Schaben said. “We were playing a little more sloppy. Obviously, they’re a very good team, but it think it was more us than anything.”

But Iowa State figured it out in the fourth set after Schaben talked to the team and the Cyclones hit .429 in the fourth set while UNLV hit just .202

“We did some really aggressive things at the end that helped us,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Hannah Bailey took some critical swings and Josie Herbst had a kill. A couple things that seemed like, ‘If we’re going down, at least we’re going down swinging.’”

Iowa State will play the winner of the College of Charleston and Tulane in the Finals on Tuesday.


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