Being a freshman and adjusting to college is tough. Being a freshman, adjusting to college, and becoming a star for the volleyball team is even tougher. Catamount freshman Liz Rondone has shown her tremendous ability on the volleyball court and has turned into a defensive leader for the young Catamount volleyball team. With her performance in her first three intercollegiate tournaments, Rondone has emerged as the Catamounts’ primary weapon. In the Magnolia Invitational, Rondone tallied a total of 70 digs in the four games in the tournament, including a career high of 20 digs against Pittsburgh. Despite her incredible performance in the event, the Catamounts finished winless at the Magnolia Invitational and started their season off with a record of 0&4. “In the Magnolia Invitational we started off kind of slow. I think that was kind of expected considering the amount of talent and the teams that we were going up against,” said Rondone. The Big Orange Bash, held at Clemson University, was where the Catamounts saw their first victory of the season. With an incredible performance in all four games of the event, Rondone was named to the All-Tournament Team, recording a total of 79 digs to help lead the Catamounts. “When I was named to the All-Tournament team, I was actually surprised. I honestly was not expecting anything like that simply because I am a freshman. It means that I have to work harder now, so I can prove that it was well deserved and not a one time thing,” stated Rondone. In the Cats’ first win against UNC-Charlotte at the Big Orange Bash, the Catamounts rallied from a two set deficit to win the final three sets and bring home their first victory of the season. Rondone once again carried the Catamounts defensively, compiling a total of 26 digs against the 49ers. She also had an ace, a block, and a kill in the contest as well. “Beating Charlotte was a confidence booster for us. That confidence will definitely come in handy against the other teams that we go against,” said the Catamounts defensive leader. Following their big victory against Charlotte, the Catamounts dropped the final two games of the Big Orange Bash. The Comfort Inn Invitational held at Morehead State University in Kentucky was a historical day for Catamount head coach Stephanie Dragan. When the Catamounts defeated the United States Air Force Academy in four sets on Saturday, September 9, Dragan earned her 200th career victory as a head coach. On the defensive end, it was Liz Rondone who led the Catamounts and helped get Dragan to that accomplishment by getting 25 digs in the contest. “Coach Dragan is a great coach. It’s awesome when she gets excited on the bench watching us play. You can tell that she really wants us to excel. She’s more than just a coach to most of us though; while she cares about our performance on the court, she also wants us to do well in the classroom. She does not just focus on volleyball,” said Rondone. In the finale against Central Arkansas, the Catamounts fell in five sets. Despite the loss, Liz Rondone recorded a career high of 32 digs in the game. Not only has she been a star thus far in her career at Western, Rondone was also a star in high school. She attended Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois, where she played varsity volleyball for three years. In her senior campaign, Rondone was the team captain and was named to the Corn Belt All-Conference first team. On top of all of those accomplishments, Rondone was also named the team’s Most Valuable Player. On the popular high school volleyball website, PrepVolleyball.com, Rondone was named to the Top 48 Defensive Dandies, performing well at every single position on the volleyball court. To go along with her incredible volleyball career, Rondone also excelled at softball in high school. The transition from high school to college is always different for everyone. However, Rondone believed that there would not be that much of a difference in the level of play on the volleyball court. “In high school it was hard to find a lot of heart and intensity in a majority of the players, and coming to college I truly did not think there would be much of a difference. However, I learned quickly that it is very different. You learn very fast that the players in college have a lot of heart and intensity. Things like that are what help carry you into that crucial fifth game,” stated Rondone. Never being the type to get nervous before games in high school, Rondone’s nerves were running high before her very first intercollegiate contest at the Magnolia Invitational against Arkansas-Little Rock. “In high school, I never really got nervous before stepping out onto the court and playing the game. When I was preparing for my first match I was going crazy. I tried everything I could to take my mind off of the pressure, but it was a lot harder than I thought. I was extremely nervous,” said the smiling Rondone. She believes that it was the pre-game warm-ups with her teammates that helped her take her mind off of the pressure before the game. Feeling like she was back at practice helped her calm down, and she was not really nervous for the remainder of the contest. The Catamounts have seen some tough non-conference teams thus far into the season. Rondone believes that these tournaments will help the Catamounts prevail in the Southern Conference. “As long as we can avoid our slumps and continue learning from the older girls on the team, I think we can do very well in the SoCon. Playing with the same excitement that we did against Charlotte and Air Force will help us out, as well. We are a smart and aggressive team, and we need to bring that aggression to every game,” she stated. The transition from high school to college is a difficult time for students and families. However, after her incredible start to the volleyball season, Liz Rondone has made her transition smooth and has made it look fairly simple.