Lady Rattlers defeat Lady Aggies in home, MEAC opener

The Florida A&M University volleyball team (6-6 overall, 1-0 MEAC) entered its home and conference opener against the North Carolina A&T State University (6-6 overall, 1-1 MEAC) with a 76-match conference win streak.

A 3-1 (30-23, 24-30, 30-24, 30-17) win over the Lady Aggies bumped its total to 77 straight. However, North Carolina A&T was able to stop a different streak.

With their victory in the second game, the Lady Aggies became the first team since 2000 to win a game against the five-time defending MEAC champion Lady Rattlers.

Intrastate rival Bethune-Cookman College was the last squad to record a win against FAMU.

“I was disappointed. We played very poor, although we won,” said FAMU head coach Tony Trifonov. “This is the last year’s runner-up. You can’t take teams lightly.”

Sophomore outside hitter Maritta Royster-Crockett said the squad had to protect its home floor. “You never want to lose on your home turf.”

Trifonov said the Lady Rattlers must play better defense and with more motivation.

In the final two games, the Lady Rattlers took control. Erratic play by the Lady Aggies helped the home team’s cause. “We did some things well. We had maybe five excellent plays and then five unforced errors. You can’t make unforced errors when you want to beat teams,” said North Carolina A&T head coach Millicent Sylvan.

Friday’s contest marked the first time the Lady Rattlers played in Gaither Gymnasium this fall.

With the installation of the air-conditioning system, FAMU was forced to practice at Florida High School.

FAMU senior outside hitter Maria Andonova, twice named conference player of the week this season, had 24 kills to lead all players. Royster-Crockett registered 21 kills and junior middle blocker Iva Lakic had 10 kills for the Lady Rattlers. Freshman setter Zaira Manzo recorded a game high 60 assists, and senior libero Rosa Rojas led all players with 17 digs.

Senior outside hitter Arlene Mitchell led North Carolina A&T with 13 kills and nine digs. Senior libero Lauren Walker had 12 digs for the visitors. Sophomore middle hitter Aundia Gray had seven kills and junior setter Brenden Chatman recorded nine kills and 28 assists.

If history holds, the Lady Rattlers and Lady Aggies could play again in the conference tournament.

Hampton University will host the 2006 tournament Nov. 17 and 18. FAMU finished MEAC play with a 10-0 record and its fifth straight conference championship last year.

FAMU defeated North Carolina A&T in the regular season and in the 2005 conference championship game.

After starting the season 0-5, FAMU has bounced back and won its last four consecutive matches.

The Lady Rattlers improved their win percentage to .500. “We can only go up from here,” said Royster-Crockett of the team’s recent run.

FAMU travels to Virginia to take on Norfolk State University Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.

After leaving Tallahassee, North Carolina A&T defeated Savannah State University 3-1 Saturday. The Lady Rattlers return to Gaither Gymnasium Oct. 21 against the South Carolina State University Lady Bulldogs at 1 p.m.