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Travis Hines | Ames Tribune | August 20, 2014

Big shoes to fill

Hahn, Nolan Junior Caitlin Nolan, left, will take on more time at libero following the departure of Kristen Hahn, right.

AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa State volleyball team has questions to answer as it readies for its season opener next week, but none might be bigger than figuring out how to fill the void of one of the top players in program history.

The Cyclones are tasked with replacing libero Kristen Hahn, whose two All-American selections top her long list of career achievements.

"I don't know that you replace Hahn with one person," coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said. "You replace her with a team. I think we will be better overall as a team defensively. We won't be relying on just one person to step into her role and have as many digs as she had per game.

  Nolan
"I don't think that's even fair or realistic to put on someone, but if we can be good at her position and better at middle back and better at right back and just better overall as a team, we can still match our team digs per game, which is what we hope to do."

It'll be a tall task, though, as ISU led the Big 12 in digs per set with 16.42 as Hahn paced the conference with 5.71 per set en route to second-straight first-team all-Big 12 selection and third Big 12 Libero of the Year win.

"Hahn was just such a great player," junior Caitlin Nolan said. "Now it's just seeing where we can fit in and work through those holes she's leaving.

"If you came to a game last year, you know she covered just about everything. It's finding somebody to step up and take that responsibility on."

Nolan is joined by Branen Berta and Monique Harris, both true freshmen, as candidates to fill that role, though Nolan has the edge with a wealth of experience the last two seasons.

"Hahn was a great player by everyone's standards," junior Mackenzie Bigbee said, "but we still have Nolan and some incoming freshmen that are really willing to step up.

"They've shown great strides just from what we've had in preseason and over the spring."

It's a situation that's created quite a bit of intrigue during preseason practice.

"There's really nice competition at that spot," Johnson-Lynch said. "I do believe whoever wins it out is going to have to be really good because they're going to have to beat out some other really, really good players. I honestly don't know right now.

"I think Nolan has the nod. I think she's got the edge, but there is pretty stiff competition at that spot."

Nolan averaged 2.08 digs per set last season. She said she knows what it will take to win that coveted position.

"It's going to be consistency," she said. "Consistency passing, consistency defensively, consistency in the leadership role."

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