Being six time defending champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Lady Rattlers volleyball team knows every time they step on the volleyball court they are targets.
FAMU defeated Mercer University 3-1 in its first home game on Wednesday.
The Lady Rattlers dropped the first set to Mercer University 29-31. Afterward, they were able to keep their composure and take the match from the visiting Bears winning the next three sets 30-19, 30-27, 30-22.
FAMU jumped out to an early lead in the first set but errors allowed the Bears to win.
“We should have beat them three to zero but we made mistakes that allowed them to win the first game,” said senior Iva Lakic.
Despite falling behind in all four sets, Mercer clawed their way back into each set as they closed the gap with victory just out of grasp.
Just when the Tigers were on the verge of taking the momentum from the Lady Rattlers, freshman standout Jovana Blazeski ended all hopes for Mercer. The Belgrade, Serbia native, finished with 16 kills. Iva Lakic, who is also a Serbia native, finished with a game high of 27 kills. The combination of Blazeski and Lakic stood tall at the net as sophomore Zaira Manzo continued to set up the dynamic duo. Lakic also led FAMU with 6 serve aces followed by Maria Gomez with 4.
Head coach Tony Trifonov was impressed with Blazeski in her first game at Gaither Gym. “She is coming off a torn ACL she has guts and heart and she is really coming around,” said Trifonov.
Mercer was led by outside hitter Karen Dorris who had 15 kills and 20 defensive digs. Tallahassee native Allison Davis, was second in defensive digs with 16. Julie Darty and Jen Darty, sisters, added 10 kills apiece. Julie led the Bears with two serve aces.
Going into the match Mercer had played 12 games compared to FAMU’s 6 matches. “Having more matches means more experience. We have a good team with good athletes who play together,” said Gomez.
So far the Lady Rattlers have played a tough non-conference schedule. They participated in the Big Orange Bash in Clemson, S.C. playing Clemson, Purdue, and Furman Universities. FAMU also had a chance to travel out west, playing in the Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport Classic. There they faced Arizona State, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Tulane. Playing big schools prepares the Lady Rattlers for a long season where they hope to play in the NCAA tournament.
Many mistakes were made and FAMU knows they must improve as the season moves along. They have one more non-conference component, the University of North Florida on September 25 in Jacksonville. After, there is conference play against the Wildcats of Bethune Cookman University September 26 at Gaither Gym.
“As a team we need more depth, stay healthy, and we need to be more terminating,” Trifonov said. “We are still soft in some spots, we have to keep moving. They are still a little flat, playing against the big schools is tough because those girls hit the ball hard.”