Volleyball injuries present challenge

Having two key starters sidelined by injuries, the 9-3 Rattlerette volleyball team is entering a tough week of competition. With a slew of conference wins under their belts, a Saturday match-up against Virginia and a Wednesday night fight against cross-city rival Florida State will test the MEAC champions’ ability to recover from this potentially harmful setback.

“Virginia is the only game that can really hurt us because they are way below us in raking,” said head coach Tony Trifonov. “Win or lose, the game against Florida State won’t make much of a difference in our post-season seeding.”

In just seven days’ time, three key players have fallen to injuries. Mariela Portocarrero, a sophomore setter from Lima, Peru, fractured her foot in the first game of their Sept. 24 match against the University of South Florida. The Rattlerettes lost in three after she and freshman outside hitter Ruiz Vasquez collided trying to recover a tip.

Exactly one week later, Ruiz and freshman outside hitter Adriana Kostadinova gave the team trainer a workout in a 3-0 win over conference rival Bethune-Cookman. In the first game of the match, Ruiz and Anisha Nicholson, senior libero from Long Beach, Calif., collided in the backcourt, resulting in Ruiz hyper extending her elbow. Two games later, a tight play at the net left Kostadinova’s teammates escorting her off the court with a high ankle sprain.

“Since the injuries occurred, the team has really come together,” said Delisha Peterson a senior setter from Birmingham, Ala. “I think that while the starters are healing, everyone is able to contribute and earn our teammates’ trust while we get the chance to be a more visible part of the team.”

But there is a ray of light in this dim story. Aside from the confidence the Rattlerettes received from a regional ranking of 10 this week, Ruiz played in most of Tuesday’s win over Jacksonville and is expected to contribute to Saturday’s 1 p.m. match-up against the Cavaliers.

Assistant Athletic Trainer Kim Wilkins said Kostadinova’s ability to play is uncertain until the hitter’s appointment, scheduled for today. Trifonov said Kostadinova is eager to play and is doing everything possible to get back in to the game.

Wilkins said Portocarrero is expected to be out for another week or so.

“All of (Portocarrero’s) fracture-healing is done,” Trifonov said. “Now it’s just a matter of rehab and her ability to tolerate pain.”

Despite the Rattlerettes’ injuries, Trifonov said he is confident that his team will be able to pull off a few key wins during this stretch of this season.

He said senior setter Delisha Peterson, sophomore outside hitter Ivelina Petkova and the rest of his hard-working squad have played well under pressure to win since the starters’ injuries.

“They have really stepped it up and pulled through for us,” Trifonov said. “This year we have the deepest bench that we’ve ever had so I don’t see a problem keeping up with our winning record.”

The Rattlerettes have gone 0-3 against Virginia and 0-14 against Florida State. The Rattlerettes take on the Lady Seminoles Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in Tully Gymnasium.