Lady Rattlers ready despite tiring travel

After being on the road 2 weeks, the Lady Rattler Volleyball team will play its second home match of the season Friday night against MEAC opponent Norfolk State.

The Lady Rattlers are fresh off a four-game road trip that concluded Oct. 4 in Norfolk. FAMU stomped over the Spartanettes in three straight games 30-9, 30-8 and 30-10.

“We’re not changing anything [before this game],” said head coach Tony Trifonov. “There’s a big difference in skill level so we’re going to just try to commit as few errors as possible.”

In the first Norfolk game, junior Tereza Arellano and sophomores Adriana Kostadinova and Andreina Ruiz led the team with 11 kills apiece for .688, .714 and .318 hitting percentages, respectively. The win pushed FAMU to 12-3 overall and 5-0 in the MEAC.

FAMU’s success thus far is largely in part to the skills of its front row players averaging 16.3 kills and 1.63 blocks per game. Junior Jayli Jackson along with Arellano and Kostadinova lead the conference in hitting percentage. Jackson’s .401 hitting percentage is enough to rank her No. 20 in the NCAA hitting percentage polls.

After five seniors from last year’s team graduated, Trifonov had to recruit heavily to regroup his team’s efforts for this season. Among those leaving the team were top performer Fiorella Aita Junek who ranked among the conference’s best in kills and service aces.

“We did graduate five players, but only two were starters so we’ve retained five starters and brought enough good players to replace them,” said Trifonov.

Among those recruited for this season is 6-foot-2 freshman Maria Andonova fom Bulgaria. She is ranked No. 6 in the NCAA in hitting percentage with 91 kills and only 16 errors. This transfers over to a .444 attack percentage.

“The game system is a little different from the way we play back home,” said Andonova. “It’s going to be nice to play at home because we know everyone wants us to win.”

If FAMU comes home victorious, it will continue the 56-match MEAC winning streak that’s been in place since the team’s Oct. 2, 1998 loss to North Carolina A&T. FAMU is currently No. 13 in the computer rankings and No. 32 in the USA Today poll, making them the first MEAC team in the standings. They first entered the poll on Sept. 22.

Tonight’s match is the beginning of a three-match home stand. Oct. 16 the Lady Rattlers play the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware State two days later.

Dominique Drake can be reached at