Branen Berta, Samara West key in Iowa State’s sweep over Wichita State


The first game of the season is always an exciting, but stressful time.

And even after 11 seasons of prior experience, coach Christy Johnson-Lynch was still fighting back butterflies in her first game of the season at Hilton Coliseum as her team took on Wichita State.

“I have been incredibly nervous,” Johnson-Lynch said. “You just don’t really know what you’re going to get until you get out there.”

Friday was the first time the public was able to see a real starting lineup from the Cyclones, as Johnson-Lynch wrestled with her options all the way until a few hours before the match.

The two key position battles coming into the year were middle blocker and libero, which were won by redshirt junior Samara West and junior Branen Berta, respectfully.

And the two players made their presence known, as West lead the team in hitting percentage at .583 on the night, while Berta managed to dig 17 balls.

Both efforts played a major role in the Cyclones sweeping the Shockers in three sets friday night.

“I felt like I had put myself in a good position to dig,” Berta said.”But just the effort from the whole team, especially the defensive pursuit, is what won the game.”

Berta’s ability to keep the play alive created plenty of chances for her hitters to score, including West, who ended the night with eight kills.

“[Wichita State] switched blocked on me a lot,” West said, who is on a strict jump limit after having major knee surgery in the spring. “And that gave me the advantage of having the smaller blocker on me, so every opportunity I was just looking for the kill.”

The Cyclones offensive game was dominating, as the team finished with a hitting percentage of .323, combined with 39 assists and 50 digs, capping off an impressive start of the season.

However, even with the collective effort from her middle and libero, Johnson-Lynch still found something for her team to improve on.

“The blocking is still not where we want it to be,” Johnson-Lynch said, who did say she saw flashes of good blocking during Friday’s match. “We may not have stuffed a lot of balls, but we were organized, and that’s half the battle.”

As for the impending collision with Creighton on Sunday, Iowa State is expecting a tough battle from the “scrappy” No. 18 team in the nation.

“We played them in the spring and they beat us,” Berta said. “So we’re looking for some revenge.”

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