Senior Arizona volleyball player Ronni Lewis is used to being tenacious when it comes to her athletic pursuits. After all, it’s hard not to when competition runs in your genes. Her cousin is three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings, her grandfather played in a Rose Bowl, her uncle played minor league baseball and semi-professional basketball and around 20 of her family members have competed in college sports.
“My family motivates me everyday and I just want to make them proud and come out, work hard and compete – both for them and for myself,” Lewis said. “I aspire to be like [Walsh-Jennings] mentally and emotionally every time I step on the court.”
Lewis entered the UA’s volleyball program four years ago and, since then, has developed into one of the squad’s most-valued players. Most recently, she was named starting libero after proving her consistency and advancing her skills.
The libero position functions as a defensive specialist who is responsible for maintaining ball control, especially in serve receiving. Good liberos should be consistent, agile, swift on their feet and skilled at passing and digging.
“I think there’s been a lot of pressure on Ronni, a lot of self-imposed pressure, and I think there’s a lot of pressure within the program that she feels and has felt,” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said.
Rubio explained that you can’t be an elite team without the libero position being solid. He said it may be the most competitive position on the team and that [Lewis] knows that every day in practice she needs to be ready to step up to the challenge.
“She’s got her teammates breathing down her neck,” Rubio said. “We have a number of really good players in her position who are fighting for her spot, and, up until a week ago, I wasn’t convinced that she was the person who was going to win the job.”
However, over the last couple practices, Rubio said she separated herself from her competitors.
“I’ve been waiting for that separation,” Rubio said. “Her consistency has gotten much better and I thought she really played well last weekend. She played like a senior.”
When asked about her fondest memories over the course of her time as a Wildcat, Lewis mentioned the first time she started at libero her sophomore year against then-No. 5 UCLA and big wins like last season against then-No. 1 ranked USC last fall.
Lewis said that the moments she will remember and cherish the most, however, were the tough practices where the whole team had to really come together and road trips where everyone was tired and goofy with one another.
“I’ll never forget those,” Lewis said. “They are experiences I wish more people could have. But that’s just the life of a student-athlete.”
Lewis said that after her senior campaign comes to a close and she graduates, she plans to take a year off to take everything in and put things in perspective. She said she has an interest in going to law school at some point in the future, and she’s interested in exploring the beach volleyball realm and might resume playing volleyball in Europe after her time at Arizona.
“I will continue to play,” Lewis said. “But where I’ll play, I have no idea quite yet.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17