Bears walk over Rattlers

The Florida A&M volleyball team is still searching for answers, chemistry, leadership and its first win of the season after being unexpectedly swept by the Mercer Bears (25-22, 25-19, 25-14).

The loss is the team’s eighth in a row and first ever to Mercer.

Head coach Tony Trifonov spent most of the game with his head in his hands as miscues and miscommunications rattled his already shaken team. The Rattlers came into the game looking for their first win of the season against a team they typically handle with ease.

Trifonov described the end result as “embarrassing.”

“It was disappointing,” he said. “They didn’t come out ready to play. I was watching them warm up. Flat and not ready.”

The Mercer Bears, a team the Rattlers swept last season, played with poise and confidence this time around. They did not drop a set against the winless Rattlers and forced them into a .039 hit percentage, the team’s lowest of the season.

Sophomore leader Pamela Barrera spent the loss on the bench with an undisclosed injury that required her to walk in a boot. The young team’s inability to rise to the loss of one of its leaders was a problem, according to Trifonov.

“You have only freshmen and sophomores and one senior,” he said. “Mostly freshmen. We have an injury to a key player as well and they just didn’t respond well. I mean injuries are a part of the sport and when one player goes down the rest of them need to pick it up. That didn’t happen at all.”

A team lacking in intensity and leadership in the eyes of its coach is a far-cry from the team that won its ninth consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title last season. Bears head coach Noelle Rooke remarked on what she thought was a loss of the Florida A&M “spark” she was unable to defeat before tonight.

“Obviously FAMU has always had a strong program,” Rooke said. “We’ve usually competed against them, but struggled, whether it be home or away. I know we competed, but it is huge to come away with the win.”

Rooke’s team was the exact opposite of Florida A&M’s despondent and struggling team. The Bears had a significantly higher .259 hit percentage.

“I think we played with a little more energy,” Rooke said. “I think that obviously we had a little bit more spark on our side. That’s just the way we play though. The girls like to be vocal and get excited when good things are happening.”

The Rattlers now take their eight-game losing streak on the road to Clemson. The team will not return home until Oct. 8 against MEAC opponent South Carolina State.

Figuring out where his leaders are and how to get his young team to perform remains an issue Trifonov is eager to solve to prevent another loss like this one.

“It was a little quiet on [FAMU’s] side of the net,” Rooke said.