Lady Rattlers look to protect 10-match winning streak

The Florida A&M Lady Rattlers (13-6 overall, 8-0 MEAC), defending MEAC volleyball champions, look to continue their 10-game winning streak when they face the South Carolina State Lady Bulldogs (12-14 overall, 2-5 MEAC) in Gaither Gym Saturday afternoon.

The Florida A&M Rattlers are back home after seven games on the road. But the squad does not know if it will have an advantage.

“The floors are still a little slick, so we have to limit what we do in practice,” said Head Coach Tony Trifonov.

“We had to adjust to the environment and make the necessary changes not to drop intensity,” Trifonov said.

Outside Hitter Marrita Royster-Crockett, a sophomore from Tallahassee, has 97 kills in 19 games and is not worried about the facilities.

“AC should not conflict with game performance. We may just get a bit groggy during the game, but it’s OK,” Royster-Crockett said in reference to the gym’s recent installation of air conditioning.

But these adjustments might not have hindered the team’s performance on the court. They have their record to show for it. With another undefeated run in the MEAC this year, the Lady Rattlers look ready to defend their conference title in Greensboro, N.C.

Trifonov, now in his 10th season, said his focus is on securing the top seed in the conference tournament. “We haven’t lost the MEAC Championship since 1998,” Trifonov said.

The main focus for the Lady Rattlers will be stopping opponents Gisela Kloss and Monique Walker, who leads the Bulldogs with 261 kills.

“We’re going to win,” said senior outside hitter Maria Andonova. Her contributions to the team enhance the team’s confidence and motivate her to continue a winning season.

Andonova, a senior criminal justice student from Bulgaria, recorded 143 kills in the six MEAC Midyear matches over the weekend, along with 42 kills on 92 attempts, setting a MEAC record for kills in a match this season.

With leading stats in hitting percentage (.397), kills per game (7.53), aces per game (1.05) and points per game (8.82), Andonova still said she couldn’t have done it without her teammates.

Royster-Crockett said the team should put forth a stronger effort in this weekend’s match.

“We plan to do a lot better than our last home game,” Royster-Crockett said, in reference to the team’s last home game, which ended with the Rattlers’ first conference game loss since 2000. FAMU may have already faced its biggest test in conference play.

“Our biggest threat was North Carolina A&T,” Royster-Crockett said.

FAMU defeated North Carolina A&T by a 3-1 margin in its home and conference opener.

Outside hitter Maria Gomez is confident about FAMU’s chances. “We have improved a lot and become much more united,” said Gomez, a freshman general studies student from Ecuador.

As a freshman it was difficult for her to adjust to the collegiate level.

“I understand better what the coach is saying while I’m on the court, and the team is better with new positions,” Gomez said.The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Rattlers take the floor Saturday at 1 p.m.