Conference play is here, and for the Catamount volleyball team that means that everything they have worked for in the opening tournaments has come down to this. Playing talented teams like South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Ole Miss, and Clemson has all been to prepare for the Southern Conference. In what is considered to be the toughest part of the season, the Catamounts looked to open their Southern Conference play with a bang. On Sept. 20, The Catamounts opened their conference season with a game against the Chattanooga Buccaneers. The crowd of 220 in the Ramsey Center was on hand, anticipating a well-performed game from their Catamounts. However, the crowd did not get what was expected as the Buccaneers defeated the Catamounts in straight sets (30-22, 30-28, and 31-29). The team failed to collect its offense as it hit a mere .100 as a team against the Bucs. In the loss, the Cats were led by junior Meredith Harmon with 10 digs in the contest. Senior Heather Koontz and freshman Brittny Johnson each finished with eight. Freshman Kate Hennessy was the only player on the Catamounts to record a double-double, finishing with 30 assists and 10 digs. After losing the first game, the Cats looked to even the match as they fought off four straight game points to battle back in the game. However, the Catamounts were not able to seal the deal as they lost game two 30-28. Game three looked like it was going to belong to the Catamounts, however, the Bucs scored the final three points to win the game and match against Western. In their next game against the Elon Phoenix, the Catamounts looked to rebound from that tough loss to Chattanooga. The Catamounts were looking to end a six game losing streak against the Phoenix. However, the result was the same as it was against the Bucs. The Phoenix swept the Cats in straight sets (30-24, 30-26, and 30-28) to win their seventh straight over Western. Senior Meghan Boyle and freshmen Brittny Johnson and Lauren Brown each finished the contest with seven kills. Brown was making her first start of the season, and gave an impressive showing. Her kills were a career high for any rookie. The primary defensive weapon for the Catamounts, freshman Liz Rondone carried the defense with 23 total digs, while Hennessy recorded 32 assists. After two straight conference matches and not winning a single game, the Catamounts look to avenge their slow Southern Conference start against UNC-Greensboro. The Catamounts took the Spartans to the test, but the Spartans outlasted the Catamounts in five games (31-29, 21-30, 27-30, 30-27, and 16-14). The Catamounts were carried by senior Krista Neumann who had 12 digs and four blocks. Senior Heather Knootz recorded a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs. Rondone recorded 30 digs for the third time this season, and senior Meghan Boyle recorded 17 digs and classmate Kate Willard added 12. The loss to UNC-G dropped the Cats to 0 and 3 in the Southern Conference. Off to a slow conference start, the Catamounts hoped to regain some sort of momentum against arch-rival Appalachian State. The Catamounts went into App’s Holmes Center with a huge chip on their shoulders as they looked to knock off the Mountaineers and snap a seven-game losing streak to the Mountaineers. After their impressive five-game showing against UNC-G, the Cats were swept by Appalachian 3-0 (30-24, 30-22, and 30-20) and dropped their eighth straight to Appalachian. The Catamounts were paced by Harmon with 12 kills, which was her fourth consecutive double digit performance. Hennessy recorded 27 assists in the tough loss to the Mountaineers. Once again on defense, Liz Rondone carried the Catamounts with 22 digs. Johnson led the team with six total blocks against Appalachian State. The 0 and 4 start put the Catamounts at the bottom of the Southern Conference; the Catamounts knew that they had to come out strong against the Georgia Southern Eagles. That’s exactly what they did as they defeated the Eagles in five sets (30-27, 17-30, 20-30, 30-22, and 16-14) to win their first conference game of the season. Harmon once again paced the Catamounts with 20 kills, including six in the fifth and final game alone. Johnson had 15 kills of her own, while Koontz and Neumann each recorded eight kills in the contest. On the defensive end, Liz Rondone recorded 26 digs and Boyle finished with 19. The Catamounts rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the final two games of the match, and snapped a six-match losing streak to the Eagles. The much needed victory over the Eagles could be just the morale booster the Catamounts need to climb back in the Southern Conference title race. The Cats’ next obstacle is a home match against the College of Charleston and The Citadel. With two wins, the Cats can move to 3&4 in the Southern Conference to help get them back in contention for the SoCon Title. Despite not opening their conference season with the bang they were looking for, the Catamounts know that the season is far from done and that the victory against UNC-G can help them rebound from these four tough losses.