Something head volleyball coach Prentice Lewis said to her team during intermission must have resonated.
For a while, at least.
“A lot of it was about attitude,” Lewis said. “It was about players coming off the bench and bringing something to the game.”
After falling down two sets to Iowa State (18-7, 11-3 Big 12) on Saturday, the TCU volleyball team stormed back to take the next two.
In the deciding fifth set, which the Horned Frogs (15-14, 3-11 Big 12) saw for the fifth time this season, the storm waned.
The Frogs collapsed and fell to the Cyclones at the University Recreation Center (23-25, 16-25, 25-22, 27-25, 12-15). TCU took two sets from Iowa State for the first time in program history, as the team swept the Frogs in all previous meetings.
“We came out fired up at the beginning [of the fifth set], then got in a lull because we thought, ‘Oh my gosh we might lose,’ and then we picked it back up again, and then we just let an easy tip drop and that was disappointing,” Lewis said.
TCU started the first set fired up, as both teams battled for points. A serving run by Iowa State’s sophomore setter Jenelle Hudson put the Cyclones up 10-6 and forced the Frogs to take their first timeout. Strong offense from junior right-side hitter Stephanie Holland and sophomore right-side hitter Blaire Pickens brought the set to within 20-19 with the Frogs leading.
Iowa State offense countered, as two consecutive kills by junior outside hitter Victoria Hurtt put Iowa State in the lead at 22-21. Freshman middle blocker Natalie Gower tied the set at 22-22, but unforced errors gave the Cyclones the first set 25-23.
Iowa State capitalized on those errors and carried momentum into the second set, holding the Frogs to only seven kills. Hurtt and redshirt freshman outside hitter Morgan Kuhrt tallied four kills each to lead Iowa State to a 25-16 win in the second set.
Lewis said the right thing in the locker room, though, as she told her team to bring the match back with a positive attitude.
“They have to understand that there is going to be pressure,” Lewis said. “There is going to be a time when you’re not going to feel like you’re in control. But you have to still go out with excitement and play hard, or you are just going to lose.”
The message was well received, as Holland and freshman outside hitter Ashley Smith took over the offense and helped the Frogs to an 11-8 lead in the third set. A kill from senior middle blocker Yvonne Igodan continued the run to 17-12. The Cyclones brought the score to within 22-21, but kills by Igodan and junior middle blocker Mattie Burleson gave the Frogs a 25-22 set win.
The teams traded points once again in the fourth set, but an Iowa State service error helped the Frogs to an 11-8 lead. The Cyclones chipped away at the lead, though, evening the set at 12-12. A kill from sophomore right-side hitter Mackenzie Bigbee sparked a 3-0 run for the Cyclones, but a service ace from redshirt freshman Trisha Langley and blocks from Igodan and Burleson helped the Frogs send the match to five sets.
TCU possessed energy in the beginning of the fifth set with several kills from Igodan, but serve receive passing fell apart with strong serving from junior defensive specialist Taylor Goetz and Kuhrt and Iowa State became too much to handle, winning consecutive points to win the set 15-12 and the mach.
For TCU, Holland led the team offensively for the seventh straight match along with Igodan, as both players recorded 13 kills. Burleson finished with nine kills and Smith and Gower added eight kills each.
“[Yvonne and Holland] played great. As long as they had good sets, they were getting kills,” Lewis said. “Our setters were having to run down balls on the court, and they are still feeding them balls. But that’s a positive and a negative, but it’s awesome that our setters are forcing them the ball.”
TCU’s setters, sophomore Alexia Heist and Langley finished with 27 and 20 assists, respectively. Freshman libero Shane Peters finished with 14 digs and sophomore defensive specialist Sutton Sunstrum finished with 9 digs.
For the Cyclones, Bigbee and Hurtt led the team with 16 kills each, followed by Kuhrt with 15 and senior middle blocker Tenisha Matlock with 14. Senior libero Kristen Hahn added 28 digs in the match and setter Hudson chipped in 65 assists.
The Frogs will play in their last Big 12 home match on Wednesday against Kansas State. It will mark the last match for seniors Igodan and setter Fleming Smurthwaite. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m.