Lady Rattlers sights set on MEAC crown

Nine girls jog around Gaither Gymnasium passing in and out of the doorways and whizzing past the ticket booths. A certain grace flows from the sharp movement on their arms and the synchronization of their steps.

Last year, there were 12 girls jogging this track, barreling toward the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Volleyball championship. But budgetary issues stemming from Florida A&M University’s numerous NCAA violations has reduced the team’s roster to nine.

The Lady Rattlers lost one scholarship spot to self-imposed sanctions from FAMU’s Athletic Department. Two other scholarships were cut for budget reasons.

“All nine players are out of state and the indication (from the Athletic Department) was that they had to be from Florida,” said Head Coach Tony Trifonov. “To replace the scholarship for one girl costs $30,000.”

According to Trifonov, the Volleyball team does its recruiting in Florida first. The next alternative is recruiting at national tournaments.

The 2005 Lady Rattlers are comprised of one American, one German, one Serbian, three Peruvian and three Bulgarian students.

The violations also caused the Athletic Department to shorten the team’s schedule.

“(They cut) at least eight games which could be a good rest for the girls before the tournament,” said Alvin Hollins, FAMU’s Sports Information Director.

The university’s issues have changed FAMU sports in general, but even after losing members, the team is confident that it can retain the MEAC crown.

Coming off a three-game losing streak on the road, the Lady Rattler Volleyball team still has its sights set on the MEAC Championship.

The Lady Rattlers’ first loss of the season came from a volleyball powerhouse: no. 21 ranked University of California-Berkeley.

“(Berkeley) is known as the home of college volleyball,” Hollins said.

But then again, every volleyball season begins this way for the Lady Rattlers. In order to get a seed the team must boost their ranking by having a tougher schedule.

“The level of competition is pretty good and normally you don’t play that many hard teams in the beginning of the season,” Hollins said. “(But) with our conference being ranked so low, Coach Trifonov has set up the schedule to give the team experience and get them ready for conference play.”

No. 23 ranked Saint Mary’s was one of the team’s other losses.

“I’m actually pleased with how we are doing because last year we lost to teams-Michigan and Ohio-who weren’t even ranked,” Trifonov said. “We feel very good to know that we are on the same level as sweet 16 teams.”

The Athletic Department says it stands behind their squad 100 percent.

“I have a lot of faith in our team because we are the five-time MEAC Champions and five-time NCCA contenders,” said Dr. E. Newton Jackson, FAMU’s athletic director. ” We’ve had some victories and some losses but those were very good teams.”

The Lady Rattlers will face off against the Wyoming Cowgirls (5-2) in Laramie, Wyo., on Friday, September 16 at 7 p.m.

Contact Robbyn Mitchell at