Polk State College volleyball player Rossanna Ramos has gone from a timid player who once cried over her performance in a match to celebrating her honor as Florida College System Activities Association Defensive Player of the Week.
The freshman libero from Puerto Rico was afraid to stand out when the season started in August.
Since then, she's been developing and recently blossomed into an outstanding player worthy of state-wide recognition.
Ramos tallied 67 digs and five aces in a four-match week that included 15 sets and three Polk victories.
Ramos posted nine digs in a 3-0 victory over St. Petersburg on Oct. 1.
She registered 15 digs in a 3-0 victory against South Florida State College on Oct. 3.
She added 11 digs in a 3-1 win over Daytona State on Oct. 5.
Ramos rounded out the week with 32 digs in a 3-2 loss to Palm Beach State on Oct. 5.
"She's a solid starting force," said Polk State College assistant coach Chris Williams. "If she wasn't there, it would be a whole different situation because of how she's taken charge."
"He told me I could do it," Ramos said of Williams.
The honor from the FCSAA was a surprise to Ramos.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I called Chris. I called home and talked to my sister and my mom. They were excited."
When Ramos, 18, came to Polk, she was afraid. She was in different surroundings, trying to speak new language and playing with a new team.
Plus, even though she played volleyball since age four and competitively with Club Vaqueros in Puerto Rico, she was an outside hitter and who moved to setter, where she played for one season. Then, she was moved to libero.
She is only in her second season at the defensive position in which her position deems she only plays on the back row.
All the changes were a little too much when practices started at Polk.
"I was scared," she said.
"At the beginning she was a little bit more timid," Williams said. "At the meeting at the beginning of the season, everyone had to talk about themselves. She was the last one. She was real shy, probably because of her limited English. Now she talks as much or more than anyone else."
Part of Ramos' job on the court is to call for the ball. Receive serves and pass it. She shakes others off, and takes charge of play on the back row.
It took her a while to become comfortable, even though she stands out by wearing a different colored jersey than the rest of the team.
"German (Del Valle, Polk's head coach) used to get on me because I never called the ball," she said. "I heard my other teammates and I started talking more. They inspired me. I love my teammates."
She worked harder and got bossy.
"I wanted to help my team,' she said. "I talked with my teammates and told them to trust me. If they hear me — get out of my way."
They do and they appreciate the effort.
"She is extremely valuable," said sophomore team captain Ashley Hass. "You have to be able to count on that position. If you can't pass, you can't play. She takes 80 percent of the defensive plays and 80 percent of the serve receives."
Ramos' play stumbled in the Miami-Dade tournament. Tears were the result.
"German was pushing me," she said.
But, she recovered and held strong. She continued to push herself to become better.
One example came from freshman middle blocker Liz Garcia against South Florida.
"I got blocked over and over again, but I knew Rossanna had my back and she did."
Del Valle set goals for the team. For Ramos, it was 25 digs in a match. Del Valle knew the number would gain Ramos' attention, now and in the future.
She achieved the mark against Palm Beach State.
"My dream goal is to play Division I," she said, speaking of an NCAA four-year university. "I'm working hard to get recruited to a big university."
"We want her to move on," Del Valle said.
Ramos, who wants to be an accountant when her playing days are over, has a good start.
"She is starting to understand the importance of being a libero," Del Valle said. "She's improved a lot and I like our relationship on the court."
Ramos' name will go down on the FCSAA statistical list as a member of the 25 dig club.
Now, she's reaching for more than 30 digs and the Eagles are driving toward their third consecutive trip to the state tournament.