The Western Carolina volleyball team opened their season on August 24 in Dallas at the SMU Tournament. With three matches in two days the Catamounts didn’t get their season off to the best of starts as they lost all three matches three games to none. The first match of the tourney was against the host school, Southern Methodist University. Western played valiantly but lost all three games of the match by scores of 30-24, 30-17, and 30-26. The Mustangs used a 14-8 run to end game one and then carried the momentum into game two with an 11-4 start. Game three was very close but with the score tied at 19 the Mustangs used a 5-1 run to take control and end the match. Sophomore returnees Katie Hennessey and Liz Rondone played well for the Cats. Hennessey posted 20 assists, while Rondone recorded 20 digs. The true star of the match was newcomer Ali Rook. Rook, a freshman outside hitter, recorded a double-double with 12 kills and 10 digs. Rook only committed five errors in 30 attack attempts for a .233 attack percentage. Western’s next two opponents were Eastern Illinois and McNeese State. The Cats were only competitive in one game against EIU as they lost 30-15, 30-26, and 30-12. The McNeese State match was better as the Cats started strong before losing 30-22, 30-27, and 30-17. Rondone put in 11 digs for WCU against EIU, but a .074 team hitting percentage done in the ladies. Trouble then occurred in the match with McNeese State as Rondone was injured. The injury was the second of the weekend for the Catamounts as freshman Jelena Jakovljevic got hurt before the tourney began. Kara Lynzee Brooks led the Cats in match two with 10 digs, while senior Meredith Harmon put up an excellent .333 attack percentage as she committed only one error. Rook was named to the All-Tournament Team as she led the Cats in kills during all three matches and finished with a total of 28. The rocky start is probably what many expected from such a young volleyball team. With only one senior and two juniors out of a roster of 13 players, the Cats were predicted to finish 9th out of 11 teams in the SoCon Preseason Poll. The Cats placed ninth in the SoCon in ’06, and have only four players returning from a squad that finished 8-28 overall and 4-14 in the SoCon. Three of the four returnees are sophomores Rondone, Hennessey, and Amanda Kerr, while the fourth is the senior, Harmon. This will be head coach Stephanie Dragan’s third year in the program. Dragan started off by matching the previous coach Angell Benson’s final year record of 12-16, before slipping to last year’s 8-28 record. Overall, the Catamount volleyball team has not had a winning season since 2002 when they went 22-12 under Benson, but the program could be on the upswing with Dragan bringing in talented recruits like Rondone last year and Rook this season. The Catamounts might struggle this season, but with all the youth in the program look for brighter things in the future from Dragan and the rest of the team.