The Lady Rattlers begin their quest for a 10th consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship Friday at Coppin State University against the Morgan State Bears.
Florida A&M and the University Maryland Eastern Shore Lady Hawks earned top seeds in the tournament.
The Lady Rattlers finished 7-1, while the Lady Hawks were 8-2 in the MEAC.
However, there are several viable contenders who will look to dethrone the Lady Rattlers.
Maryland-Eastern Shore and Delaware State are 8-2 in the conference, and South Carolina State finished the season 6-2 in the MEAC.
Consistency is the one thing head coach Tony Trifonov has preached all season in what he calls a “rebuilding year.” That consistency is one of the major factors for the team’s success during the tournament, he said.
“Consistency is always a big key,” Trifonov said. “The opponent gets tougher the further you get along in the tournament, and technically we’re as good as we’re going to get. We also need more confidence as well, and this would be a big confidence booster.”
Trifonov also has said, at times during the season, his team has dropped intensity for a set and it can’t afford to lose focus during the conference championship in Maryland.
“At this point, we have to be ready psychologically,” Trifonov said. “We have to approach it one game at a time. We can’t overlook anybody.”
Outside hitter Bianca Rucker said the team has to come out with a sense of urgency and be ready to extend its streak because expectations have risen.
“There is a lot of pressure for us because everybody wants to take us down,” Rucker said. “Coming here, individually, I knew the legacy is important. We don’t want to be that team that doesn’t win the MEAC championship. It’s a sense of urgency.”
The Lady Rattlers have won five consecutive matches heading into the tournament. Outside hitter Katherine Huanec said the team is peaking.
“I think we are starting to hit our stride,” Huanec said. “When we started earlier in the season, we struggled, but we are starting to come together playing very good volleyball at the right time.”
The tournament begins Friday at 10 a.m. at Coppin State’s Physical Education Complex in Baltimore.