Catamount Volleyball in full swing

The Western Carolina Volleyball team is back, and the season is in full swing. The Catamounts started their season off on a rocky start, losing their first 3 matches. Despite their early struggles, the Catamounts have rebounded with an impressive victory in the Big Orange Bash against the UNC-Charlotte 49ers. The team started their season off in Oxford, Mississippi, for their first tournament of the season. The Catamounts opened the Magnolia Invitational dropping a 3-1 (30-24, 25-30, 30-22, 30-23) decision to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. Senior Heather Koontz and freshman Amanda Kerr carried the pace for the Catamounts against UALR, as each tallied a total of 10 kills apiece. Freshman Brittny Johnson, who was playing in her first collegiate game, also did her fair share for the Cats. She recorded nine kills on 18 attempts and had no errors in the contest. On top of that, Johnson had a team high of nine blocks in the game. Immediately following the UALR game, the young Catamounts played the Ole Miss Rebels, the team hosting the Magnolia Invitational. The Rebels defeated the Cats 3-0 in the match and the Catamounts left Oxford with two losses on their record to start off their season. In the Ole Miss game, freshman Liz Rondone filled in for the injured Katie Hennessey at the outside hitter position. Rondone contributed with 5 kills, 14 digs, and an assist off of a block. Fellow freshman Kerr recorded six kills with seven digs, and Johnson finished the game with four kills and no errors once again. Koontz paced the Cats again, and she ended her day with nine kills on 39 attempts. Her classmate, Kate Willard, also contributed with a great effort, finishing the game with 10 digs. After the two early losses in the Magnolia Invitational, the Cats had two more games to play in the event and were hoping to even out their record by the end of the tournament. However, they dropped their final two games to Southeast Missouri State and Pittsburgh, causing their record to be 0-4. In the game against Southeast Missouri State, the Catamounts fell in straight sets, 30-21, 30-23, and 30-20. Seniors Meredith Harmon and Meghan Boyle stepped up for the young Catamounts. Harmon carried the Cats with eight kills in the contest. Boyle and Brittny Johnson each added six kills apiece. Boyle also had 11 digs and Johnson led with three blocks total, two of them being solo. The win for Southeast Missouri State was their first of the season, and that was something the Catamounts would look for in their last game against Pittsburgh. Their search for the first win of the season would not be successful in Mississippi, as the Pitt Panthers out-blocked the Catamounts and defeated them in straight sets. The Panthers took the 14-3 blocking advantage, and it played dividends in the final score. The Panthers moved to a perfect 4-0 on the season, while the Catamounts would leave Oxford with a 0-4 mark. They left the Magnolia Invitational with the hopes of achieving a victory in their next event, the Big Orange Bash in Clemson, South Carolina. On September 1 and 2, the ladies opened the Big Orange Bash against the ACC’s Clemson Tigers. The Catamounts would end up falling in straight sets to the Tigers 30-21, 30-17, and 30-7. Hennessey, who finished the game with eight kills, no errors, and a .571 attack percentage, led Western, despite the losing effort. Freshman Liz Rondone played a huge role for the Cats with 16 digs in the contest. Their first win of the season did not come against Clemson; however, after a five set battle with the Charlotte 49ers, the Catamounts’ search for a victory came to an end, as they rallied from 2-0 down to win the game 3-2. The senior trio of Heather Koontz, Kate Willard, and Meghan Boyle rallied the Cats back from a 2-0 deficit to the 49ers. Koontz recorded a career high of 23 kills in the contest, and she also posted a .413 attack percentage, she committed four errors on a total of 46 attempts in the game. Boyle also helped the Cats overcome the deficit with 11 kills and 10 digs. Meanwhile, Kate Willard had ten digs in the contest, and the Catamounts shut down UNC-Charlotte in the last three sets of the competition. Charlotte was on the verge of their fifth consecutive three game sweep, as they had the Cats right where they wanted them, in a 2-0 hole. However, the resiliency of the Catamounts allowed them to destroy those chances as they took game three with a score of: 30-25. In game four, Western had the early lead before the 49ers came back and took the lead back. No matter what Charlotte did, Western kept crawling back into the game. Heather Koontz had back-to-back kills, which tied the game up at 23. Following a 49er timeout, Charlotte came out and scored the next two points making it 25-23. Western scored seven of the final nine points, to even the sets at 2 apiece. The final set fell in favor of the Catamounts as they cruised to a 15-7 set win, and it gave the Catamounts their first victory of the season. The Catamounts finished September 1, with a 1&1 day, and ended with a 1&5 overall record. Coming off of the comeback victory over Charlotte, the Cats looked to carry the momentum into Saturday’s showdowns with Tennessee State and South Carolina. However, history would not repeat itself in their first game on Saturday against Tennessee State. The Cats, despite a great effort, went down in four sets to the Tigers. On the defensive end, the Cats were paced by freshman Liz Rondone. She recorded a match high of 24 digs in the contest. On the offensive side, senior Heather Koontz and junior Meredith Harmon carried the Cats. Koontz had 11 kills and Harmon had 10, as well as a .333 attack percentage. Like they did in their impressive comeback victory against Charlotte, the Cats found themselves in an early 2-0 hole. The Catamounts rallied to win game three before falling in game four 30-16 and ending the match with the defending Ohio Valley Conference Champion, Tennessee State. Western looked to rebound from the tough loss to Tennessee State with the hopes of beating the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Big Orange Bash finale. Despite their game three successes in the last two games against the 49ers and the Tigers, it did not pay off against USC. The Gamecocks swept the Catamounts in straight sets, ending the tournament for Western. Following the game against South Carolina, freshman Liz Rondone was named to the Big Orange Bash All-Tournament Team. Over the four matches in the event, Rondone recorded 79 digs, and averaged 5.27 digs per game. Despite the 1&7 overall record; it is still very early in the young Catamounts’ volleyball season. They next do battle in Morehead, Kentucky, in the Comfort Inn Invitational, where they will battle Morehead, the United States Air Force Academy, and Central Arkansas. Hopefully, the Catamounts will come out with intensity and flair, and maybe that will pay off for them in their next battle.