AMES — Agile.
As freshman volleyball kill machines go, recent Williamsburg star and current Iowa State right-side hitter Mackenzie Bigbee’s something of an anomaly.
Her learning curve has been unusually short and tight, not long and winding — a good thing for the 19th-ranked Cyclones, who enter Big 12 Conference play at 6:30 p.m. today against Baylor at Hilton Coliseum.
“I think she’s exceeded (expectations),” said ISU Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch, who referred to Bigbee as a ‘beast’ early this season. “You just never know how freshmen will make that adjustment form high school to college and so far at least a few nights she’s led us in kills. That’s really hard to do as a freshman.”
Especially when the deep Cyclones (6-4) also feature experienced hard hitters such as Victoria Hurtt, Rachel Hockaday, Tenisha Matlock and Jamie Straube.
Through 10 matches — including a monumental four-set triumph last weekend over then-No. 1 Nebraska — Bigbee has struck for a team-best 127 kills.
Hurtt’s pounded 101 and Hockaday’s chipped in 100.
“It’s been a lot faster pace than high school,” said Bigbee, who starred in four-sports as a Raider. “At first it’s a little tough to get used to, but you kind get into the swing of things and you’re like, ‘OK, I can do this.’”
Bigbee’s presence, despite her youth, causes opponents to game plan for her.
There have been various blocking schemes employed, Johnson-Lynch said, as well as shorter serves intended to disrupt her rhythm.
So far, no good.
“She’s just so physical,” said Johnson-Lynch, whose team owns a five-match win streak against the Bears (13-2). “Offensively, it seems like even if the other team digs the ball, it’s not under control. They just dig it ip and we usually get an easy ball back. So she’s a really nice option to have because even if she doesn’t get a kill, she causes a lot of problems for the other team.”
Bigbee said she’s been tested most as a defensive player.
“In one of our games I was struggling defensively,” she said. “They were tipping to me a lot and I just wasn’t reacting fast enough. So it was like, ‘OK, here we go. This is college speed.’ You have to be prepared for anything. You have to be on the defense at all times, really.”
Johnson-Lynch said a demanding non-conference slate that included six matches against teams ranked at the time proved valuable to her team in general and Bigbee specifically.
“We’re going to have a lot of tough matches but I feel good going into conference in terms of knowing where we’re at,” said Johnson-Lynch, who has led ISU to six straight NCAA Tournament berths, including two Elite Eight appearances. “For example, we’ve played some different defenses so it made it easier for us to transition to Bigbee. And if we don’t play great teams we never even explore that option because we’re never pushed to figure that out.”
HAHN HONORED: Former Kennedy standout Kristen Hahn continues to excel at the libero position.
Hahn, a junior, was named on of the NCAA’s top players earlier this week, and averages 4.63 digs per set.
“Very coachable; works very, very hard,” Johnson-Lynch said. “A really tough kid.”
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