BALTIMORE – The North Carolina A&T volleyball team saw its season come to an end Friday afternoon to No. 3 Howard in a 3-0 (25-22, 18, 18) loss in a quarterfinal match of the MEAC tournament at the Physical Education Complex on the campus of Coppin State University.
The Aggies efforts were resilient and spirited as they played each ball with all their might in their return back to the conference tournament. A&T capped off the season with an overall record of 7-25, its best since the 2007 season. As the Aggies continue to revamp their program, they gave the crowd and everyone in the league on Friday several reasons to expect big things in the future.
“It looks like we have a bright horizon,” head coach Hal Clifton said. “We have a lot of players that are well-balanced. Our sophomores now have two seasons under their belt and now have experience at the MEAC tournament. Now we know what we need to do to prepare for this type of atmosphere.”
Freshman Jillian Nobles was well prepared for the Bison (21-10) as she led the Aggies with 11 kills and finished with a .318 hitting percentage. Nobles’ performance was fearless and didn't resemble a freshman as she notched her third match of the season where she led the team in kills. Sophomore Te'Borah Hawkins-Hollingsworth added 10 kills. Freshman Liz Martino finished with 15 assists and senior Chelsea Fox posted 10. Sophomore Ashley Johnson recorded a match-high 18 digs.
The first set delivered a high amount of intensity from both ends of the court in an evenly matched set. A&T scored five unanswered points to take a 10-5 lead after being tied at 5. Howard didn’t let A&T hold its lead for long as it tied the set at 12. After going point-for-point, Hawkins-Hollingsworth used a kill to tie the game again at 15. The turning point for the set was when Katherine Broussard put the Bison on top 20-19 with a kill. Howard scored the next two points, forcing A&T to call a timeout. Two HU errors and kill from Nobles gave A&T three points and cut their deficit to 24-22. But Broussard ended the set with another kill.
Howard’s energy and rhythm continued into the second set where they opened the game on a 7-0 rally making it hard for the Aggies to find balance.
A&T never hung their heads and continued to press on in the third set. Hawkins-Hollingsworth gave the Aggies the 6-5 edge, but Howard took the lead on a kill and an an A&T error. HU never trailed from that point on as they went on to control the set for the win, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals.
Broussard recorded a match-high 14 kills and Meagan Legerlef added 11. Stephanie Shultis set the attack with 28 assists and added seven kills.
The season-ending loss also closed the career for Fox, a four year member of the team.
“This was an amazing experience,” Fox said. “It took four years of hard work to get here, and it means a lot to me to have finally made it. I’m really going to miss the team, but I know that there are going to keep making it to the tournament and eventually win a championship.”
The Aggies return 10 of their 11 players as they strive for continued success next season.
“We’ve pushed the bar a little higher and we want to be a force in the southern division,” Clifton said. “We have a great 2014 recruiting class coming in and we have to continue pushing ourselves to play to the potential that we have.”