GREENSBORO - In the final home match of the season, the North Carolina A&T volleyball team put on an exciting show before losing in four sets to Bethune-Cookman, 25-10, 25-15, 17-25 and 25-15. It was just the second time this season the Aggies (1-26, 1-7) took a team to four sets with the first time being a 3-1 loss to Norfolk State on Sept. 27.
Junior middle hitter Andrea Evans had a standout game, posting a team-high and season-high eight kills. Sophomore Jeana Daniels had seven kills, while sophomore Tatiana Cooper added six.
"Today's match went very well," said N.C. A&T head coach Hal Clifton. "We were a little up and down. We started out very well in the second set and then hit a roadblock. Our servicing broke down, and we weren't able to score. We were up and in control, then all of a sudden the wheels kind of fell off, passing-wise, and we lost our rhythm, we lost our ability to attack them and they were able to catch up and pull ahead."
The Aggies struggled in Sets 1 and 2, but found more consistency in Sets 3 and 4. In Set 3, the Aggies posted a .273 attack percentage, recovering from a first set -.239 percentage.
The Aggies were down 7-0 in the first before scoring their first point of the match on a kill by freshman Ian Thompson. The closest they got to the Wildcats was five points, when they pulled in at 11-6 on a kill by Evans.
In the second set, the Aggies built a 9-3 lead, powered by a pair of service aces from Daniels, a service ace from senior Bridget McCaskill (who was honored in a pre-game ceremony as part of Senior Night), and kills by Chelsea Fox and Evans. But the Wildcats started to chip away at the Aggies' lead, and tied the match at 11 on an attack error by Daniels. Bethune-Cookman then pulled ahead with kills by Krysta Gardner, who ended the match with a team-high 14 kill, and Linda Nwabuko to make it a 15-11 game. The Aggies were only able to score four more points the rest of the way.
But the Aggies built on their second set with a strong third set, rousing the crowd to their feet with their winning performance. N.C. A&T matched Bethune-Cookman nearly point for point until Daniels hit a kill to give the Aggies a 9-8 advantage and the lead for good. Daniels and Evans led the way for the Aggies in the third game, each collecting four kills. Sophomore Devonte' Reese added to the point total with a pair of service aces. The Wildcats didn't give up easily, coming within four points on a service error by defensive specialist Murphye Williams to make it a 21-17 game. But a couple of attack errors by Bethune-Cookman, a kill by Evans and a service ace by Reese sealed the victory for the Aggies.
"I thought we played a very good third set, we were better with our ball control in the third set," Clifton said. "We were able to pass better and sided out quicker. Then the fourth set, again we were inconsistent. That's kind of been our problem all year. We're just too inconsistent."
In the fourth set, the Aggies kept close to the Wildcats, pulling to within three points when a service error by Gardner made it a 13-10 game. But the Wildcats went on a 9-2 run to put the Aggies away. While they lost the match, the set win today shows the improvement the Aggies have been making this season.
"They've gotten a lot better with their skills, and now we're trying to be a little more court savvy as far as matches go," Clifton said. "We've got a good core group that will be returning in the spring. We're excited about the future."
The Aggies will end the season on the road, taking on Savannah State on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m., and S.C. State on Nov. 13 at 3 p.m.