The Day FAMU Beat #2 Nebraska

University of Miami Tournament 2015

  Fri. Aug 28  Kansas State Coral Gables, Fla. 5:00 p.m.
  Sat, Aug 29  University of Miami Coral Gables, Fla. 12:30 p.m.
  Sat, Aug 29  Illinois State Coral Gables, Fla.  5:30 p.m.


Dwight Floyd

Dwight Floyd

Forever etched in the minds of FAMU Rattler faithful is the football win in 1979 against the Miami Hurricanes. There is another win in FAMU lore though that may be greater. It’s been quite a few years since, but Nebraska’s coach would relish the chance at revenge. I think FAMU should give it to him, but only if he would agree to bring his team to Tallahassee to play in the Alfred Lawson Teaching Gymnasium. At the time that the FAMU ladies won the Nebraska tournament back in 2004, he was angry and embarrassed though he only made excuses for the loss rather than give FAMU the credit deserved. For Nebraska it was the first loss at home to an unranked team since 1986 and the first to an unranked non-conference opponent since 1996. No other team would beat the Cornhuskers on their home court until 2009 when UCLA won in five sets.

2014 Trifonov coaching team in win

2014 Trifonov coaching team in win

You don’t beat Nebraska in their gym. They were ranked the second best team in the country. In fact, they went on to become ranked number one in the country not losing another game before falling to two-time defending champion USC in the NCAA regionals.  That FAMU beat Nebraska was no fluke. For the rest of the year the team received national attention and made it into the top 25 college Division I poll. That weekend, the FAMU Rattlers went on to beat Maryland and Ball State to take the tournament championship. Their opponents were all stunned and beaten by a team without a dominant individual star, a team with an international flavor that was skilled at every position.

Nebraska had its own international star in Canada’s 6’4” freshman Sarah Pavan. FAMU had to contend with her gigantic leaping ability and “killer” spike that dominated most other teams. FAMU responded by denying her the usual opportunities, double-teaming her at the net and forcing Nebraska to rely on other players. The 4,151 Nebraska fans that filled the coliseum to capacity could only watch in unbelief as 6’2” setter Mariela Portocarrero placed the ball perfectly, defended at the net and scored points on her own when not expected to. It was Teresa Arellano in game 3 that carried FAMU back from a 16-21 deficit with four of seven kills during a 9-3 run. Then there was the streaking service game and spiking of 6’4” Adriana Kostadinova that turned around game four. The most exciting play though was a one hand fisted stab by outside hitter Andreina Ruiz that bent over the net and into an unbelievable spot on Nebraska’s side of the court as if intended. That’s when you knew it was FAMU’s night.

2014 FAMU Coaches checking the stats

2014 Coaches checking the stats

I wasn’t there, but as an avid FAMU Rattler fan I contributed to, so I could watch the match over the internet. It could have been marbles for all that mattered, or football, but this was women’s volleyball, a sport not appreciated enough.  It’s fast, aggressive, and physical. Some even say that it is also eye appealing. Like basketball, it takes great team play. The “Kill”, better known as the “Spike”, is the most exciting play. If you don’t know volleyball you can equate it to the dunk in basketball. The setter is the team quarterback, much like a point guard, and is depended on to make plenty of assists. The libero is the best defensive player on the team. She’s not expected to contribute much to scoring, but like rebounding she is expected to “dig” out every opponent’s play and get the ball to the setter. In 2004, FAMU had It all, great defensive play, strategic blocking, powerful hitters outside and in the middle, and Hall of Fame type coaching from Bulgarian  Tanio Trifonov, who bleeds orange and green.

Talent-wise, FAMU currently has 5 seniors and 1 junior returning to provide the much needed leadership. There are newcomers filling critical positions such as the libero. How quickly they come together as a team will determine the amount of success they have. In 2004, opponents made it a point to highlight the team’s international roster. Today, teams like Florida State have filled their rosters with players from around the world, making it more difficult for Trifonov to recruit top international players. By season’s end you can expect the current team to be one of his best since 2004.

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