Senior leads, perseveres in final season with GV volleyball
Despite injuries, down year, Ronda encourages and performs for Lakers
Arms lifted to the sky and hands intertwined with the teammates by her side, senior Betsy Ronda placed her right leg in the middle of the group to form a perfect circle.
Before the Grand Valley State volleyball team broke from its huddle to begin the match, Ronda went around the circle with her foot and tapped the other starters on the top of the shoe. Fellow senior Kaleigh Lound then tapped her back to complete the cycle.
Nothing needed to be said. The message was loud and clear.
“When we are in that circle and doing those taps it’s about showing that we are in this together,” Ronda said. “We have each other’s backs and it’s just a little reminder before we go out and start the game because I feel like sometimes that gets lost when we get in crazy situations.”
Looking the part with both her wrists taped up, Ronda has battled and sacrificed – even if her contagious smile in that moment indicated otherwise – to become an admirable leader and one of the best all-around players in program history.
Coming out of East Grand Rapids High School, Ronda’s decision to stay close to home paid off immediately. She was named GLIAC Freshman of the Year in 2012 and was the first rookie in GVSU’s history to make the All-GLIAC First Team.
Expectations for continued success quickly ensued. Ronda embraced the challenge and has since become the eighth Laker to join the exclusive 1,000 career kill/dig club. She currently ranks fifth all-time in digs (1,421) and 11th all-time in kills (1,192).
Ronda also made the All-GLIAC Second Team and was a key contributor in leading GVSU to its sixth NCAA Final Four appearance last season.
Statistics and accolades, however, only tell a fraction of her story.
“With Betsy it’s never been truly about the numbers,” said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon. “I mean, you want them to hit at a certain rate and put certain numbers up, but as a six-position rotational player it’s more about the intangibles.”
While having the skill set and mindset to play every rotation makes Ronda an exceptional player, it’s her upbeat personality that makes her a better leader.
“No matter what the situation, whether we are in the gym, on the bus or eating pre-game dinner, she just has a positive energy,” Scanlon said. “The team gravitates to that. You want that in a leader, someone that people respect and look up to.”
Having played alongside Ronda over the last four years, Lound praised the importance of her teammate's leadership and ability to keep everyone attentive.
“When we are going over a few rough bumps in a game, we can look to her and she makes sure we all come in and make eye contact with one another,” Lound said. “She is very vocal leader. She is not afraid to tell you when you’re doing something wrong or when you need to start doing something better.”
On a fundamental level, that’s exactly what leaders are expected to do – lead by example and hold everyone accountable.
For Ronda, however, getting to this point has been anything but easy. Injuries have consistently tried to derail her from becoming the player and captain she is today.
“Betsy is never playing with a clean bill of health,” Scanlon said. “When you play hard, that’s what happens -- players that are used to going all out get these weird injuries. She has been banged and bruised up from the first day she got here as a freshman.”
Ronda’s career injury report includes having surgery on her foot this offseason, a strained abdominal, wrist issues and, arguably the worst according to Scanlon, bruised knees after she fell out of her bunk bed as a freshman.
It’s the price Ronda paid for being a sleepwalker, and for playing every point like it’s her last.
“I bruise really easily so I feel like I’m always taped up,” Ronda said. “It’s always been a battle, but volleyball is that kind of sport. You either go for it and hit the floor or you don’t. I’ve always had the mentality to just go and worry about the rest later.”