Florida A&M University’s volleyball team brought home the Mid Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) title Sunday.
Despite the obstacles they faced this year, the Lady Rattlers beat the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks in a 3-2 (17-25, 25-15, 23-25, 31-29, 15-10) championship match up.
The team had a limited number of players and a large budget cut, which played a significant role in this season’s performance.
Chelsea Pennick, 19, from Jacksonville, said everything about the season was an obstacle.
“Since there was a budget cut we didn’t get uniforms,” Pennick said. “What ever we already had is what we had to practice and play with. All we got this year were shoes.”
The budget and scholarship cuts limited the recruitment of players.
The team only had eight players and one substitute.
Although FAMU was the only team that had consecutively won the MEAC Championship for seven years, many people doubted that they could pull it off this season.
“No one was on our side because we were the champions,” Pennick said. “We had only eight players, three coaches and one trainer rooting for us. We had to fight against the other teams and sometimes the referees in order to bring in the championship.”
Tony Trifonov said he is satisfied with the conference win.
“It is a good feeling when you have so many odds against you,” Trifonov said.
Trifonov said he is proud of his team because they never gave up.
With two injuries the week before the big game, he was unsure of the outcome.
“It was scary having two starters with injuries,” Trifonov said.
The team did not have a setter, so the players had to be versatile and mobile on the court.
Samara Ferraz, 24 from Brazil, said this season was a challenge for the team.
“It was a challenge because we had to play different positions,” Ferraz said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win, but if we worked together we could do it for sure.”
Trifonov continues about the challenges of working without the important position.
“Playing without a setter is like a basketball team playing without a starter or a football team playing without a quarterback,” Trifonov said. “The girls were aware that they held the position as champions and they were going to defend their title. They played with a lot of pride and I am proud of them.”
The team will be off for a couple of days to prepare to for the NCAA tournament.
In the meantime, injured players will be able to recuperate and the team can review past mistakes.
They will continue practice on Thursday.
“We will continue to work hard,” Ferraz said, “We have to prepare mentally and physically; we will use the same formula which is playing from the heart.”
FAMU has a match set for Nov. 30 against University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
A win would help the team get a better seat in the NCAA tournament.
“A match against UAB will be good practice for the NCAA tournament,” Trifonov said.
The main goal of the team is to get past the first round of the tournament.
Tending to injuries and practicing hard, some say will get them through the tournament.
“We didn’t have a complete team and everyone is getting hurt, worn out and it is getting hard,” Pennick said. “Playing with pain is something you have to do when there is only eight players because you don’t just do it for you, you do it for your team.”