After their upsetting defeat over No. 2 Nebraska on Sept. 12 in front of a sellout crowd, the women’s volleyball team was ready to gas up the victory train and continue riding. The train’s departure for its next destination, however, was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Hurricane Ivan was able to cause yet another adjustment in scheduled plans, keeping the Lady Rattlers from traveling to the Boise State Tournament where they would have faced No. 3 Washington.
Head Coach Tony Trifonov had one word to describe the sentiment of the team after their plans to compete were put on hold: “Disappointed.”
“We would have had some good matches, especially Washington,” said junior outside hitter Andreina Ruiz. “We really wanted to go.”
Trifonov agreed with Ruiz.
“The girls wanted to play,” Trifonov said. “We may have lost a little momentum by not playing in the last two weeks.”
Whether or not the Lady Rattlers can maintain momentum after the Nebraska victory, FAMU’s jump from a 39th national ranking to a 27th ranking may open more eyes and act as a cause of concern for the opposition.
“They don’t view us or that win as a fluke because they know we’re a good team,” Trifonov said.
“But we know rankings don’t win championships or rounds in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Lady Rattlers will have the opportunity to show Southern Mississippi just how good they are when they take on the Golden Eagles in the second of a four-game home stand on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Southern Miss will enter Gaither Gymnasium along with Head Coach Ricci Luyties, who is in the first year of his first head coaching job. He takes over a team that finished third in Conference USA with a 27-6 record in 2003. Its performance last season was the best in school history, posting the most wins and highest conference finish.
They also are returning four starters including Amy Truong, who, in 2003, led Southern Miss in aces and set the school single season record for assists with 1,502.
“Coach [Trifonov] let us know that Southern Mississippi is a good team, so we’re looking forward to them,” Ruiz said.
The Lady Rattlers will have to compete without a vital piece of the team, senior hitter Jayli Jackson, who remains ineligible to play.
“We miss her,” said junior outside hitter Adriana Kostadinova. “She’s always screaming and cheering us on though.”
“We need her a lot,” Ruiz stressed. “There’s a big hole, but she’s doing a good job keeping us together.”
While Trifonov would love to have Jackson back on the court, he appreciates the fact that the Lady Rattlers have not buckled under the pressure in her absence.
“Everyone has stepped up,” Trifonov said. “I can’t point fingers at anyone in particular because it has been a team effort.”
It is not known when Jackson will make her return.
With the withdrawal from the Boise State Tournament, FAMU has had more time to fine-tune its game with more practice time.
“Their legs are fresher by not playing and our energy level is also higher,” Trifonov said.
And it doesn’t hurt that Mother Nature will finally give them a chance to start the victory train up once again. But in the meantime, Kostadinova said it will take “great defense and ball control” to remain successful while the train is parked in Tallahassee.