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IPFW women fall in NCAA tourney

AMES, IA – IPFW was at its best, and worst, Thursday.

The Mastodons’ (25-7) season ended in an all-over-the-map 3-2 loss to Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.

No. 18 Iowa State (21-7) won its 11th straight match and never trailed in the decisive fifth set as the Mastodons could not recapture the form they showed in winning Sets 2 and 3. Iowa State’s Rachel Hockaday closed out the 15-7 win with a kill through a double block.

The up-and-down night was captured in the statistics. The Mastodons hit .291 in the two sets they won, but .053 in the three sets they lost.

Iowa State, five days removed from an upset of No. 3 Texas, ran off eight straight points in the opening set to take a 14-5 lead. The Cyclones never led by less than eight during the 25-11 win. It was the lowest score of the season in a first-to-25 set for the Mastodons.

IPFW, the Summit League tournament champions, responded with a 25-23 win in the second set.

The Mastodons went on an 8-2 run to expand its lead to 21-12, and the home team then made a furious but unsuccessful rally. Iowa State scored five in a row, including an ace from Alison Landwehr that trickled over the net.

Jessie Manwaring’s kill put IPFW ahead 24-20, but Iowa State reeled off three straight before Manwaring found a hole in the middle of Iowa State’s defense for a set-ending kill.

“I wanted the ball,” Manwaring said. “I just wanted to put the ball away and get us out of there.”

Manwaring did not have a kill in the set until the final two points.

The surge continued into the Mastodons’ 25-22 win in the third set.

A six-point run put IPFW ahead 12-8 and the Mastodons led the rest of the set. Iowa State ran off three straight points to pull within 24-22 but the set ended when Andie Malloy’s serve was long.

“We handled the ball really well in the second and third sets and of course when you’re in system you’re a little more confident,” IPFW coach Kelley Hartley Hutton said. “In the fourth set we got timid again and started tipping.”

The Cyclones, buoyed by the home crowd, went on an 8-1 run midway through the fourth set and eventually won 25-13 – IPFW’s second-worst first-to-25 point total of the season.

Setter Megan Steenhuysen, who had 37 assists, said her team was fearless in the second and third sets but timid thereafter.

“They’re big girls. We’re used to playing against pretty big, but not that big,” she said of Iowa State’s front line.

The 6-foot-2 Jamie Straube finished with a match-best 16 kills and a .500 hitting percentage for Iowa State. Iowa State, in its seventh straight NCAA Tournament, hit .329 overall but Straube admitted the Mastodons were relentless defensively.

“We would hit a ball that would go off the court and pretty soon it would be a free ball over the net,” she said.

Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch (171-80 in eight seasons at ISU) called the match “crazy” and also lauded IPFW’s back row.

“We were a little caught off guard with how many times they kept the ball alive,” she said. “They did a lot of very smart, good things against us.”

Libero Tessa McGill set another school record in her final match. Her 20 digs give her 745 for the season. She added the school’s career digs record, finishing with 2,324.

McGill, Steenhuysen, Manwaring and Haley Emenhiser, all seniors, were freshman on IPFW’s only other NCAA Tournament team in 2009. The Mastodons lost that year in straight sets to Illinois.