Iowa State has volleyball fever

Volleyball fever is sweeping Ames like H1N1.

And it’s the darndest thing. Iowa State’s turnaround from worst to almost first in the Big 12 Conference is becoming the stuff of legends right before our very eyes.

Casual fans are becoming die-hards.

Folks who wouldn’t be caught dead at Hilton Coliseum for anything other than a basketball game are showing up in packs.

Players who never would have considered becoming a Cyclone are all of a sudden accepting scholarship offers.

The Cyclones amazing thrill ride hit a new high two weeks ago when they snapped a 75-match losing streak and defeated Nebraska — in Lincoln, by the way — for the first time in school history.

Excitement reached fever pitch Wednesday night when ISU toppled previously unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Texas in a five-set thriller (22-25, 25-22, 25-15, 20-25, 15-12).

The Longhorns (18-1, 13-1) came in with a 27-match regular-season winning streak and had lost only one set in conference play all season.

ISU trailed 9-6 in the fifth, but closed the match on a 9-3 run, sealing the team’s 11th straight victory in what is shaping up to be the greatest season in school history.

“The team is playing with a lot of confidence,” said Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “This team never believes they are out of it. It doesn’t matter the score or how many games they are down.”

The eighth-ranked Cyclones can knock off another top 10 team on Saturday when No. 10 Nebraska comes to Ames for an 8 p.m. match.

Johnson-Lynch is hoping to set a new state of Iowa attendance record for a college volleyball match. ISU’s football game against Oklahoma State across the parking lot at Jack Trice Stadium kicks off at 2:30 p.m.

“We are hoping after the football game people will want to come over and watch our match that night,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Five years ago, most fans would have laughed at her and chuckled at the thought of going to a volleyball match that didn’t involve sand and women in bikinis.

These days it is becoming must-see TV.

There’s a lot to be proud of for Johnson-Lynch, who has a baby and a brand-new contract since taking ISU to the Elite Eight last fall. Wednesday’s victory may have sewn up the opportunity for her team to host the opening rounds of the postseason.

Amazing. This was a program among the worst in the nation earlier this decade.

Now look at it.

“This is the most exciting time our program has ever had,” Johnson-Lynch said. “The crowds that we’ve had lately have been a lot of fun to play in front of. This is such an exciting week for our team. I’m excited to see what they do.”

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