The Florida A&M University Rattlers swept the South Carolina State University Bulldogs 3-0 Thursday night in the Al Lawson Multipurpose Teaching Center and Gymnasium to remain undefeated in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
The Rattlers (12-8, 6-0 in the MEAC) played without senior outside hitter Maria Gomez, who was out with an undisclosed illness.
FAMU head coach Tony Trifonov started freshman outside hitter Ashley Johnson in place of Gomez. Johnson, a Lincoln High School graduate, finished the game with six kills and four digs.
“I always thought I should be on the court before, but now I showed Coach why I should stay on the court,” said Johnson after the game.
The Rattlers felt the loss of Gomez in the first two games. The team fell behind 7-10 in the first game, before coming back to win 25-22, and 16-7 in the second game, before coming back to win 25-23.
“They started getting too easily distracted and did not pay attention to what was going on,” Trifonov said. “They just need to be more mentally prepared. It comes with experience.”
The Rattlers came out firing after halftime with a 9-0 run en route to a 25-9 victory in the third game.
“We were in front of our home crowd, our fans, and we knew we had to pick it up,” said junior setter Jessica Bond. “We wanted to show everybody how good we are and how hard we practice.”
Junior Jovana Blazeski led the team offensively and defensively with 13 kills and 16 digs. Freshman Pamela Barrera contributed eight kills. Junior Susan Egoavil also contributed defensively with 14 digs.
The Bulldogs played the first two games with high intensity but were not able to close the games.
“Once we dug a hole, we really didn’t have anyone that really stepped up to help us out of the hole early enough,” said South Carolina State head coach Millicent Sylvan.
The Marching 100 and other FAMU athletic teams filed into the gymnasium to offer support to the volleyball team and participate in a pep rally that was held after the game.
Sylvan said the energy from the crowd had an effect on her young Bulldogs in the third game.
“I have a really young team full of freshmen and sophomores and one true senior,” Sylvan said. “The more people that came in, the more nervous they got.”
The Rattlers’ final home game of the season is Nov. 15 at 3 p.m. against the Norfolk State University Spartans.