Kostadinova leads championship charge

Nine months after her team was knocked out in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, Florida A&M volleyball player Adriana Kostadinova expects no less of her team than an NCAA championship.

“The goal for this team is not just to win the conference again; the conference games are not too hard,” Kostadinova said. “We’re thinking about a national championship.”

Judging by the score of the Rattler’s first conference game of the season against Bethune-Cookman College last week, Kostadinova may have a point. FAMU dominated its in-state rival in straight sets improving to 1-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season. With the win the Rattlers extend its regular season conference win streak to 62 games.

In the game against B-CC, Kostadinova dominated leading the team with 14 kills.

“She is an offensive weapon,” said Head Coach Tanio Trifonov. “In important matches, she carries us offensively.”

One of the important matches Trifonov may have been referring to was the Rattlers’s win over former No. 2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln a few weeks ago. In the First National Bank/Arby’s Classic, Kostadinova led the team to victories over Nebraska, University of Maryland and Ball State University. The Rattlers were crowned the champions of the tournament, and Kostadinova took home MVP honors.

For her efforts in the Arby’s Tournament Kostadinova was also named MEAC player of the week.

Kostadinova, a native of Bulgaria, loves the game of volleyball.

“I’ve been playing this game for 11 years,” Kostadinova said. “It all started because I was tall.”

A coach in Bulgaria came to her grammar school and asked if she would like to play volleyball because of her height. She agreed and has not stopped playing the sport since. After an impressive career in Bulgaria coach Trifonov invited Kostadinova to play for him at FAMU.

“I knew Coach Trifonov but I wanted to see where I was going,” Kostadinova said. “So I used the Internet to research the school more.”

The transition from Bulgaria to the United States may not be an easy one for many.

However, when three of your former teammates are on the same team with you, it makes the move a little easier.

“First Ivelina (Petkova) came, then we all followed,” Kostadinova said. The other two Rattlers from Bulgaria are sophomores Maria Andonova and Diana Genkova.

The chemistry of four former teammates on the same team helps FAMU continue its dominance of opponents.

The Rattlers 27-4 record last season, followed by its second round advancement in the NCAA Tournament, really fueled the team’s fire to go further this season.

And for her efforts, Kostadinova received the MEAC tournament Outstanding Performer honors during the teams’s third straight MEAC win November 2003.

Thus far, the team record is 7-2, and has won six games in a row. Rattler opponents should also fear the fact that Trifonov believes Kostadinova has not reached her peak yet.

“She has gotten better each year but she still has a lot more to improve on,” Trifonov said. “She has the rest of this year and next year to get better.”

The Rattlers next few games are against conference opponents. However the team will face-off against a tough North Carolina team in Chapel Hill on Sunday.

Contact Andre Shanon at thefamuansports@hotmail.com.