Going from a 9-18 season to reaching the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament to winning the championship the hard way, the George Mason University women’s volleyball team will face another tough opponent in the Iowa State Cyclones. Recently jumping two spots to fifth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll, the Cyclones have an impressive résumé to show for in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

While this season was a turnaround season for Mason, Iowa State successfully reached the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season with a school-best 25 wins in 2009. Last season, the team reached the regional final before falling to the Texas Longhorns. The Cyclones are competing at a high level with Big 12 Coach of the Year Christy Johnson-Lynch.

The Cyclones are equipped with three All-Conference First Team players, including the two-time Big 12 Libero of the Year Ashley Mass, who led the conference with 537 digs. Junior outside hitter Victoria Henson finished third in the conference with 4.13 kills per set. Whereas Mason is comprised of dispersed talent, the Cyclones’ players are concentrated in the midwest region. Despite the difference in makeup of the team, both Mason and Iowa State share some similarities. As a team this season, Mason recorded a .231 attack percentage and allowed a .148 attack percentage from their opponents while the Cyclones hit .240 and allowed a .147 percentage.

Both teams provide solid defensive play. Mason led the CAA with 500 blocks, 168 of which came from All-Conference First Team player Kelsey Bohman. The Cyclones enter the NCAA Tournament, leading the Big 12 in defensive digs and ranking second in blocks.

With the tournament field revealed this past Sunday, the outcome seemed to disappoint the Cyclones, who were placed in a region with three other conference foes, including Big 12 champion, Texas. Former American volleyball player Karch Kiraly, now an ESPN analyst, called it a “brutal region.”

While it may be a Big 12 get-together, new faces like Mason will be focused on their first round opponent. Mason will play underdog once again as it had in the CAA Tournament, and even though their first task is to play in the Hilton Coliseum, where the Cyclones went 10-1 this season, Mason has been relatively solid away from home, sporting a 14-5 record when playing away from the RAC.