AMES, Iowa – The Iowa State volleyball team that will begin its spring schedule on Thursday against Creighton has seen a lot of change this offseason. Last year’s team that reached the Sweet 16 lost four seniors, but as the team transitions to its new roster, head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch likes what she sees of her returning players.
“Something we talked about this offseason was that group of seniors,” Johnson-Lynch said. “They were tremendous people, leaders and students. We lost a lot in that group. We are in the process of finding who is going to fill those roles, and it’s not going to be just one person, but I’m hearing some things and seeing some things that I’m pretty excited about.”
Two of the first players Johnson-Lynch mentioned as keys to offseason success were her two returning seniors, Kristen Hahn and Tenisha Matlock. Hahn, a Cedar Rapids native, received the Big 12 Libero of the Year award in both 2011 and 2012. As a junior, Hahn led the Cyclone defense averaging 5.44 digs per set.
Matlock, a middle blocker from North Platte, Neb., came on strong last season, recording 234 kills on the season while hitting at a .314 clip, the seventh-best single-season mark in Iowa State history. Matlock also had a team-high 0.73 blocks per set last year, including a career-high four solo blocks as the Cyclones took down No. 24 North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think Hahn is kind of a natural person who can take charge of things,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We’re also looking at [Matlock] to be a physical leader on the court.”
Matlock now finds herself as the most experienced Cyclone middle blocker following the graduation of Jamie Straube. She echoes her coach’s thoughts on what her role as a leader will be. She also said that it was an adjustment for her to not have Straube by her side on the court.
“I view my role as being a physical leader because I’m not that vocal of a person but I know I can show them how to physically get after it,” Matlock said. “It’s a little scary at first but I’ve started to like it because I can be in a position now where I can help others while I’m still learning at the same time.”
Hahn, a naturally vocal leader, has tried to push other players into stepping up by making a slight change in her on-court demeanor this offseason.
“Christy and I have talked a lot about being a mentor-leader, lessening my vocal leadership and putting more focus on helping the others grow,” Hahn said. “What can I do to make my teammates better, not just through the use of my voice? I need to come in and make my teammates better whether it’s on the court, off the court or academically.”
Outside hitter Victoria Hurtt is another player Johnson-Lynch mentioned as a key to the young Iowa State squad. Hurtt lead the Iowa State offense with 3.03 kills per set last season and was a unanimous All-Big 12 first team selection in 2012.
“We’re meshing well right now,” Hurtt said. “Obviously with a young team there’re going to be bumps along the way, but that’s to be expected as we learn together. I’m going to be lead by my actions. I’m going to play hard, hopefully my teammates can follow that lead.”
Fans will get their first glimpse of the 2013 Cyclone squad, minus the incoming freshmen class, on Thursday, March 28, when Iowa State takes on Creighton in the team’s spring opener at 6:30 p.m. CDT at Harlan High School in Harlan, Iowa.