GREENSBORO-Of all the MEAC opponents the North Carolina A&T volleyball team faces, Florida A&M has been historically its toughest. The Aggies are now 4-36 against the Rattlers after being swept by the final of 25-17, 25-17, 25-14 on Sunday afternoon at Moore Gymnasium.
"We just did not play well today. We came out very sluggish. We did not stick with the game plan that we developed. We lost hitters in transition and they were able to score," said A&T head coach Hal Clifton.
The Aggies were led by Brooke Stamnes, who had a team-best seven kills and 14 digs in the match. Junior Jeana Daniels led the team with three blocks. The Aggies struggled again offensively, hitting .102 against the Rattlers. Florida A&M hit .366 in the match, with three players hitting over .400 in the match.
"When you have three kids with significant hitting percentages, you can't defend all of those options," said Clifton. "We didn't serve aggressively enough. We didn't get them out of system and they are a very good in-system team. They've got confidence, they took big swings and we weren't able to respond back."
The Aggies (0-22, 0-3 MEAC) worked to come from behind in each set on Sunday, but just as they got close, the Rattler (6-8, 4-0 MEAC) pulled away.
In the first set, the Aggies pulled within two on a kill from freshman Te'Borah Hawkins-Hollingsworth to make it a 15-13 game. But the Rattlers went on a 4-0 run to pull ahead, and won the set behind .483 hitting.
Again, the Aggies came close to tying the set late, but the Rattlers went on several short runs to stave off the A&T threat in the second set. Stamnes served and picked up the ace to make it 16-14. Aggies won another point to make it 16-15 on an attack error by Maria Ceccarelli, who finished the match with 15 kills for FAMU. But the Rattlers won four straight to build up their cushion and won the last four points to secure the set.
In the third set, the two teams traded point-for-point early, tying the set four times. A block by senior Andrea Evans and Hawkins-Hollingsworth made it 9-9. But the Rattlers used a few short runs to build up another strong lead. A kill by Daniels made it 20-13 to end the FAMU run. But the Rattlers outscored A&T 5-1 to end the match and remain undefeated in conference play.
Sunday's loss completed a tough weekend for the Aggies, who are now 0-3 in the conference after also dropping a pair of five-set matches, including one on Friday to Bethune-Cookman. But those heart-wrenching losses did not affect the team in Sunday's match.
"I think we had moved on from Friday's loss because I thought we had a really good practice yesterday. We had gone over the game plan, we had gone over rotations," Clifton said. "I got to find a better way of getting our kids ready to play from the first point. I've got to go back and look at myself to go 'what's it going to take for this team to get ready from the first point?'"
The Aggies will host Radford at 6 p.m., on Tuesday at Moore to close out their six-match homestand. The Aggies will compete in their first conference road trip from Oct. 12-14, taking on S.C. State and Savannah State.