A baker's dozen would be a great accomplishment, not only for the Iowa State volleyball team but for the future of it too.
The 18th-ranked Cyclones will try to win their 13th in a row by knocking off No. 2 Stanford in tonight's Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, traveling to Berkeley, Calif., in hopes of moving farther than ever before.
A pair of five-set matches nearly denied Iowa State the chance, but those butterfly-filled victories are a part of the past, head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch hopes.
"We're very thankful to be advancing, we were not very good this weekend," she said after the Cyclones edged IPFW and No. 24-ranked North Carolina in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament in Hilton Coliseum. "It just wasn't a real pretty performance either night. I think we were pretty nervous and 'off.'"
The Cyclones still won its 11th and 12th consecutive matches to make it to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six seasons. And while Johnson-Lynch is proud of that fact, she'd like to raise the bar a bit too.
"I think we're in a pretty special group of schools but we've never been to the Final Four, we've not competed for a national title," she said. "We haven't won a Big 12 Championship yet.
"I've said this a lot: We're really, really good and we've had a lot of fun these past several years and it's been really awesome, but I think when recruits think about where they want to go to school it's to Stanford and it's to Penn State and it's to Florida and it's to Nebraska. I don't know that we're in that mix yet, we're getting there and we're starting to get those kind of players, but we're still chasing a little bit."
Most teams chase Stanford. The Cardinal (29-3) have lost only to No. 1 Penn State, No. 4 USC and No. 8 Hawaii this season. They swept Jackson State and No. 17 Western Kentucky to reach the Sweet 16.
"We have nothing to lose and I think we're looked over highly and we're just going to go out and play with as much heart as we can," said Iowa State's all-Big 12 libero Kristen Hahn.
Three straight five-set victories, including a regular-season finale triumph, over No. 3 Texas evened the Cyclones to 5-5 in matches to go the distance. Iowa State is also 7-5 against ranked teams this season, having won their last four such pairings.
"Early in the season we played some five-set matches and lost some close games and I think that's really prepared us for later in the season," said ISU setter Alison Landwehr. "I think we're more confident in the fifth set, and especially these past three when we were at home that's easier. Now on the road we're going to have to fight a little more to pull that out."
Tonight's match against Stanford begins at 9 p.m. Central time and can be seen online at ESPN3.com.