On Monday afternoon, in a partially crowded Applebee’s restaurant, the volleyball team, coaches and supporters convened together to break bread.
They anxiously awaited NCAA officials to announce for the first time on ESPN the teams that will be advancing to the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship games.
The officials also announced for the first time, the teams that will play host to the first and second rounds, and also which teams will meet up in the first round to spike out their differences, hoping to be the team to make it to the second level of competition.
“It was a big surprise,” said Coach Tony Trifonov. “I expected to be going to Gainesville to compete in the first round of the championships. But what I did not expect was to play Florida first.”
Senior defensive specialist, Jessica Sattler said, “I kind of knew we were going to play Florida in the first round.
“We are an up and coming team whereas Florida is already established as a national power. By defeating them we will be establishing our team to the same status.”
This sudden unexpected turn of events could cause a problem for the Rattlerettes. It may just affect how they play in the first round.
Senior middle blocker Shante Haymore said she was hoping to play another team.
“Florida is a huge obstacle to get around,” she said. “And if we do not win we are out of the championship games for good.”
By sweeping Morgan State, the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, in Baltimore on Nov 17, the Rattlerettes became the MEAC champions for the second time in three years.
“I was very relieved and excited after the last round of conference play,” Trifonov said.
“I was relieved from the pressure of everyone expecting us to win. So I was excited when we did win because we did not let anyone down.”
The Rattlerettes are leading the nation in service aces per game, are ranked third in the country in hitting percentages.
Haymore is sixth in Division I in hitting.
“It is a great feeling to [win] two conference [championships] in three years,” she said. “This is one of our goals we set for ourselves each year. So being able to accomplish it is very rewarding.
“Regardless of whom we play and the outcome, I want fans to know that as a volleyball team at a historically black college, we have come a long way.”
A key factor to the Lady Rattlerettes advancing beyond the first round will be how they intend to prepare for their opponent.
“We will do a lot of recapping on our film tapes as well as our opponents,” he said. “We are still going to play our style of game and try to eliminate as many of our own mistakes as possible, but also learn from the tapes to practice their style of play as well.”
Sattler said hard and intense practices are a huge factor to making it pass the first round.
“We will also do a lot of scouting of the other teams, seeing how they play,” she said.
“I just hope that we continue to fulfill our potential and that we just play our best and win this game so that we can advance to the second round.”
The Gators will play host to the first and second rounds, taking on Florida A&M at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Stephen C. O’ Connell Center.
At 5 p.m., Florida International and Central Florida will play at the Gainesville site. The winners of the first round matches will play a 7 p.m. on Friday night.