Lady Rattlers head to NCAA tournament

It looks like winning the MEAC championship is the norm for the the Lady Rattlers volleyball team as it captured an unprecedented seventh title in a row in Hampton, VA.

Along with the MEAC crown, FAMU took plenty of the tournament hardware back to Tallahassee.

Head Coach Tony Trifonov was named outstanding coach, senior Iva Lakic won outstanding player and Zaira Manzo and Lakic were named to the all-tournament team.

Despite a depleted roster with only two seniors, FAMU was able to sweep through the MEAC tournament losing only 1 game against Maryland Eastern Shore. The Lady Rattlers finished the season with a flawless 17-0 record in the MEAC. The dominance helped continue the team’s 99 match-winning streak in the conference.

“It wasn’t easy. We did it with only seven players. It’s difficult but when you’re used to it you overcome those type of things,” Trifonov said. “The atmosphere is different for the NCAA tournament but the girls are ready.”

Seniors Lakic and Hannah Uckelmann are ready to make their final run to the tournament and win the Gainesville Regional as the Lady Rattlers will use the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament nine of the las ten years.

The Lady Rattlers are no strangers to big-time tournament play.

FAMU will look to the power of outside hitters Blazeski and Lakic to compete with the power of experienced powerhouses Oklahoma and Florida.

“I’m very hopeful that we’re going to win in my last year because this is my last chance to play for FAMU,” Uckelmann said.

Freshman Chelsea Pennick will see her first action in over six weeks as she nursed an injured foot.

MEAC rookie of the year Jovana Blazeski reagravated a knee injury against University of South Florida, but will ready for Thursday’s match-up to.

“I had to sit out for six weeks and watch the team play, its not easy especially when you love the game,” Pennick said.

The win over Maryland Eastern Shore earned FAMU an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament to face the 21st ranked Oklahoma Sooners Thursday at the University of Florida in Gainesville for the first ever meeting between the schools.

Playing a tough non-conference schedule against opponents such as Clemson, Purdue, Texas, Arizona State, and University of South Florida should give the Lady Rattlers an idea of what kind of competition they will face in the NCAA Tournament.

“Sometimes we overlook some teams but in the NCAA Tournament you know your going to have to come out and play because its only 64 teams left and that team from the Big 12 will be motivated,” Trifonov said.

The College of Charleston and University of Florida will play Thursday, with the winner facing the winner of FAMU and Oklahoma Sooners Friday.