SportsVolleyball

Freshman Ronika Stone killing the competition



Ronika Stone has already made history at the University of Oregon, despite starting her first day of college on Monday.

The 6-foot-2 middle blocker is the highest-rated recruit in Oregon volleyball history, ranking 10th on the Prepvolleyball.com Senior Aces list.

Since arriving at Oregon, Stone has proven to be a dominant force on the court. On Sept. 22, she and fellow freshman Jolie Rasmussen led the Ducks with 11 kills each as they began Pac-12 play with a 3-0 victory against Oregon State. Stone also led the team with six blocks, including one solo block.

“We knew they were good,” head coach Jim Moore said about Stone, Rasmussen and freshman Willow Johnson, who had eight kills of her own. “They have confidence; they’re where they are for a reason. They’re the players they are for a reason.”

Stone, in particular, demonstrated her confidence by refusing to show the nerves that may be expected of a freshman athlete. On her first two swings of the match, she put down kills. Later in the first set, Oregon State went on a three-point run that Stone and Rasmussen eventually stopped with kills. They turned the momentum of the set back to the Ducks, leading to victory.

“Having my first Civil War was crazy,” she said after the match. “It’s weird; I’m not really that nervous. When I’m on the court, I don’t really worry about the crowd as much, so it’s just like practice.”

Perhaps Stone’s lack of nerves comes from her experience with international competition. Last summer, Stone was a member of the USA Youth National Team. During the championships, she led the world in hitting percentage at .550. She also won a Junior International Silver Medal as a member of the USA HP Select A1 Red Team.

Her international success is surprising only because of how quickly it happened. It was only about six years ago that, by complete accident, Stone discovered her love for volleyball in the first place.

“I tried out just because in junior high everyone was trying out for a bunch of sports,” Stone said. “I didn’t know what position I wanted to be, so I just went into the line that was the shortest, which was the middle blocker line. And that’s how I became a middle blocker.”

Stone was a standout at Valley Christian High School, located in San Jose, California. While she was there, her team not only won the 2013 and 2015 Division III State Championships, but also advanced to the semifinals in 2012 and 2014. In her senior year, Stone had 630 kills, 429 digs, and 67 blocks.

Stone’s athleticism runs in the family. Her father, Ron Stone, is a former NFL offensive guard and three-time Pro Bowler. He helped the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories before retiring in 2006. Her sister, Ronna, is also an athlete at Oregon as a thrower on the track and field team.

Growing up, the sisters played basketball on the same club team. They continued playing basketball on the varsity team in high school for a couple years until they both decided to focus on their respective individual sports.

“She’s a phenomenal athlete, always has been,” Ronna said. “She’s extremely talented when it comes to athletics and is pretty good at any sport she tries out.”

Born 16 months apart, the two of them have always been close, even sharing a room for most of their lives. Because of that, Ronna is excited to have her sister join her at Oregon.

“It’s nice to have someone I can always go to since we’re away from home,” Ronna said. “And she’s pretty fun and crazy and always dancing so it’s nice to have that back since I missed out on it when I was here at school last year.”

When Stone began unofficially touring college campuses, she was immediately attracted to Oregon. She said that she connected well with the volleyball team, but that wasn’t the only reason she decided to attend.

“I wanted not only the volleyball team to be great — because they are – but other sports as well,” she said. “It’s a great athletic community.”

Her academic needs were another reason she decided that Oregon would be the perfect fit. She plans to major in journalism and pursue her interest in sports broadcasting.

“After I’m done in my volleyball career, I want to go try to get an internship at ESPN,” she said. “I know I have to start small, but I want to be on ESPN.”

 


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Hannah Bonnie

Hannah Bonnie