Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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U volleyball: Iowa State hoping to avert upset on this visit

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Volleyball Updated: December 8, 2011 - 9:49 PM

The Sports Pavilion brings back unpleasant memories to Iowa State, the Gophers' opponent in a 7 p.m. match Friday in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

Last year the Cyclones played Creighton in the first round of postseason play at the Sports Pavilion and were upset 3-2.

"After last year's loss in the first round, we learned not to take anything for granted," Iowa State coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said during a news conference on Thursday.. "We had advanced to the Sweet 16 three years in a row. We had gotten used to it a little bit and maybe thought that would just happen for us every year. 

"We have to be ready for every match in the NCAA tournament. We are pretty thrilled to be advancing to this point. We know Minnesota is very good, very athletic, very physical. Just a very good team. So we know we have a huge task [Friday] night. But we are excited to be here and we are excited for the challenge."

Iowa State (22-5) is the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA field this year. The Cyclones swept Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Miami (Fla.) by 3-0 scores in the first two rounds last weekend in Ames, Iowa before their home fans.

But Johnson-Lynch seems to know a lot as well about the Gophers, a team that beat them in a match last spring. 

"[Ashley] Wittman is a great outside go-to for them," the Cyclones coach said. "[Katherine] Harms seems to be playing pretty well lately. They've got some really nice offensive options.  [Tori] Dixon in the middle. Nothing secret about what they do well. Their libero [Jessica Granquist] is very good. A solid all-around team."

Where might the Cyclones have an edge? "We have become known for our blocking defense," Johnson-Lynch said. "Statistically, if you look at our numbers, that is something we take a lot of pride in and do pretty well. We hope we can do that well [Friday] night."

Jamie Straube and Tenisha Matlock, both 6-2 middle blockers, both average one block per set when they play.

As a team, the Cyclones average 2.2 blocks per set, their opponents 1.94 blocks. The Gophers are almost the reverse. They average 1.92 blocks per set, opponents 2.57.

Johnson-Lynch told her players the Gophers seem to be a lot like [Miami of] Florida. "Just a really nice, athletic team that is going to bounce the ball on occasion and be pretty offensive at times," she said. "We talked about maintaining a steady composure all night."

That could be especially important in a hostile atmosphere.

Johnson-Lynch said playing the match at the Sports Pavilion is a huge edge for the Gophers.

"Home-court advantage is a nice thing to have," she said. "We had it last weekend. We all recognize that it is really tough challenge for us [Friday]. The Gophers are pretty good at home just looking at their record."

The Gophers are 10-4 at home this season, 7-5 on the road.

"We have been able to play really well on the road and that is what we are hoping for -- to have another great road match," Johnson-Lynch said. "We have to serve tough against any opponent with a lot of offensive weapons like they have.

" We are going to have to play great defense, pretty relentless defense. We are going to have to do what we do well. We are going to have to win some tight games. It is going to be 22-all, 23-all and we are going to have to handle that pressure and be very aggressive and stay in there until the end and make it a tight game."

The Cyclones, their coach said, are at their best when they get in a groove defensively like they did against Miami.

"We played just great defense, dug a lot of balls, and transitioned quick," Johnson-Lynch said.

The key players for Iowa State are:

* 6-2 outside hitter Jamie Straube. She is hitting .490 in two postseason matches and is averaging .450 kills per set. She also has seven blocks.

* 6-1 right-side hitter Kelsey Petersen. She is hitting .336 this season, only .002 behind Straube

* Outside hitter Rachel Hockaday is serving at a .981 rate, second best in program history

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