Team heads home with high hopes

The Lady Rattlers (1-4) are looking forward to their first home game in three weeks in Saturday’s conference opener against Bethune-Cookman College (1-3) after road games at University of Iowa, Wake Forest University, and East Carolina University. FAMU defeated St. Leo University in convincing fashion, 86-61, at Gaither gym Nov. 10 in their first home appearance, and they are hoping for a repeat performance.

The team impressed as they had five players with double figures, out rebounded St. Leo 40-27 and forced 29 turnovers.”Winning our first game is important going into a long season,” sophomore forward Stephanie Foster said. “The win over St. Leo gave us momentum going into the Iowa tournament where we were able to gain experience playing at a Big 10 school such as Iowa.”

The team is looking to improve on last season’s performance (12-17, 7-11) where they failed to reach the MEAC tournament semifinals for the first time since 2002.

“Coming into this season, we talked a lot about improving,” said Debra Clark, who is entering her fifth season as head coach. “Last season was tough on our young team.”

FAMU had one senior and junior on last year’s roster and lacked veteran leadership as they struggled with a road record of 2-11.

“We seemed to have a mental block which caused us to play down to our competition, and we lost games on the road that we shouldn’t have,” Foster said. “Underclassmen were forced into roles that they were unprepared for.”

This year’s team is loaded with sophomores and juniors with experience, which is something the Lady Rattlers hope will equal success for this season.

“Many of our younger players have a year’s experience under their belt,” head coach Debra Clark said. “I expect them to be more comfortable, especially on the road, think less and play more instinctively.”

FAMU wants to be poised and mentally prepared to contend for the MEAC title.

“This year, we sat down as a team and set goals for the season,” junior guard Q’Vaunda Curry said. “We want to win the regular season MEAC title, the MEAC tournament and the community service award.”

The Lady Rattlers have a special bond off the court they hope will translate into wins on the court.

“We are a spiritually rounded team that attends church together every Sunday. We also want to be involved in the community by mentoring kids and doing volunteer work, which will also help us on the court,” continued Curry.

The tough, non-conference road schedule will give the Lady Rattlers a good idea of how this season will go on the road as they try to improve from last year’s dismal season.

“The Iowa tournament showed our young team what we need to do to improve on the road, especially in a hostile environment,” Foster said. “That experience should help boost our confidence going into this year.”

FAMU played well at Gaither Gymnasium last season with a 9-3 home record.

“Last season, we had the skills, talent and personnel,” Curry said. “We just weren’t all there mentally during road games which we are going to improve on going into this year.”

More focused than ever the Lady Rattlers are going into this season with confidence and swagger they lacked last year.

“They came to me in the preseason and established ownership of their goals coming into this season which showed maturity right off the bat,” Clark said.

The Lady Rattlers hope to improve to 2-0 at home against rival Bethune-Cookman Saturday at 2 p.m. at Gaither Gym.