GREENSBORO - Senior Andrea Evans was honored on Friday. On Sunday, she showed out. After being honored on Friday's Senior Night at Moore Gymnasium, Evans actually played her final volleyball match for North Carolina A&T two days later, and it will be an afternoon she will never forget.
Evans finished with eight kills, 13 total attacks, three total blocks, no attack errors and a .615 hitting percentage to lead the Aggies to an upset three-set win (25-22, 25-17, 26-24) over S.C State. It was the best single-match hitting percentage of her career when having at least 12 attempts.
"Andrea was not just phenomenal today, but she has been phenomenal for us all season," said A&T coach Hal Clifton. "I hope she truly gets the recognition I think she truly deserves. She's been very efficient as an attacker. She doesn't get the big exciting kills all the time, but she scores and she scores really well when we set her."
Evans is the epitome of what the Aggies hope the program can be. In her first career match played on Oct. 16, 2009, Evans played one set, had one attack error on one total attack and finished with no blocks. She improved immensely throughout her career, and thus walked away from the program with one of the best individual performances of the past four years.
A&T played six freshmen on Sunday. During the course of the season, the Aggies lost all three MEAC five-set matches they played. It leaves one to think what could have been, and what is yet to come.
"Today gives us a vote of confidence that what we've been focusing on is going to work," said Clifton, who saw his Aggies finish 3-29 overall and 3-7 in the MEAC. "It gives them that confidence that not only can we compete, but we can also finish. That was our biggest problem this year, we've had five-set matches where we didn't finish. We've had individual sets where we didn't finish. Today, we learned we can compete, we can finish and they can be a very strong opponent in this league."
A&T's win marked the first time the Aggies have defeated a team other than Savannah State since defeating Winston-Salem State on Nov. 6, 2009, and it is the first time they have defeated a conference opponent other than SSU since beating S.C. State on Nov. 2, 2008. The Aggies three MEAC wins are the most since the 2007 team won five, and they have their first two-match winning streak in five years.
The milestones were earned in dominant fashion as the Aggies held 2011 MEAC Player of the Year Desire Waller in check over the first two sets. She had a combined nine errors in the first two sets, and the Bulldogs had a paltry .027 hitting percentage to show for it. Meanwhile, the Aggies kept freshman hitter Brooke Stamnes busy. The Aggies set her 18 times and she put down seven kills in the first set.
Despite Stamnes' strong performance, a Waller kill put the Bulldogs down 24-22 in the first set. But a Waller service error gave the Aggies the set. The Aggies had little trouble against the Bulldogs in the second set, giving the Aggies a two-set lead.
"We wanted to finish it in three," said Clifton. "We didn't want to give them any confidence."
It took some handwringing for Clifton to get his wish. The Bulldogs took a 23-22 lead on a Taylor Bailey kill. Freshman hitter Aleena McDaniel then faked like she was going to take a pass from setter Chelsea Fox. Instead Evans came to the middle to get the pass, and crushed it to tie the game.
The Bulldogs (9-14, 6-4) regained the lead, but a kill by McDaniel and two Bulldog attack errors gave the Aggies the 26-24 set win, as the A&T players rushed the floor in celebration.
"It has been a growing process the entire season," said Clifton. "We've just been trying to get better each match. We're still working toward that goal of putting it all together. Today was very special. We had two players (Evans and Devtone' Reese) playing in their final home match at A&T, and we had people wanting to prove themselves. We felt like we could compete with this team, and we were able to do that."
Evans ended her career without ever having one of her teams qualify for the MEAC Volleyball Championships. But she did go out as a winner, which is not a bad consolation prize.