AMES — Iowa State lost a total of two sets in the National Invitational Volleyball Championships.
On Tuesday in Hilton Coliseum, the Cyclones (21-13) swept Tulane (29-9) 25-21, 30-28, 25-16 to complete their season with a victory and a trophy.
“I’ve never ended the season with a win at Iowa State — I would say it’s a pretty good feeling,” senior outside hitter Jess Schaben said.
Schaben capped her illustrious career by winning the NIVC Tournament MVP award. She averaged 5.8 kills per set and 3.5 digs per set and recorded a double-double in every NIVC match.
“Schaben has put up the biggest numbers of her career – not just in the NIVC, but even in those last couple weeks of the season,” Cyclone coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. “When you have a leader like that who is driven and who is just a competitor – a born competitor – the rest of the team, it’s kind of easy for them to follow. I think they were following her.”
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Against Tulane, Schaben recorded a double-double of 14 kills and 10 digs.
It’s not just the numbers with Schaben, though. She wants the ball in critical moments.
In the second set, Schaben got the kill to tie the match at 27 by firing a rocket cross-court. Two service errors – one by each team – and a Jenna Brandt kill later, Schaben again came through in the clutch, getting the kill to end the second set and giving the Cyclones a commanding advantage.
“We showed a lot of grit,” Schaben said. “We, as a team, have always kind of struggled in second sets – it’s not anything new. We pulled together and said we have to grind through this if we’re going to win it. It wasn’t pretty, but we still won. That shows the heart we have.”
It’s easy to put up numbers in easy situations, but Schaben does it in critical situations.
“I haven’t coached a lot of players like her that just love the competition,” said Johnson-Lynch, who coached 12 straight NCAA Tournament teams before this season. “The bigger the point, the bigger the team, the bigger the match – she loves that. It’s hard to find players that can embrace that all the time.
“If anything, I think that’s what we’re going to miss the most. We’re going to miss her passing and her kills and her back-row attack – all of those things we’ll miss. But her presence, her, ‘Give me the ball. I don’t care the score, I don’t care if we’re down, I don’t care what the situation is.’ It doesn’t matter. She wants the ball.
“And you trust her that she’s going to go after it and do everything she can. I’m hoping the youngsters learned a lot from her and watched her and can mimic it because it’s a wonderful quality.”
Iowa State controlled the third set from start to finish after Schaben shut the door on the second set.
When Iowa State won, Schaben and fellow senior Hannah Bailey went over to get receive the NIVC Championship trophy for the team. Schaben wrapped the trophy in a big hug with tears running down her face.
“I was just taking it in one last time,” Schaben said. “I didn’t know how I was going to feel. I just feel so thankful to play and put on this jersey one last time. Yeah, there were a lot of tears, but it was all happy tears.”