ELON - The great thing about August and September and having eight new players is that it allows experimentation with different lineups. A tweak here or there helped the Aggies gain some momentum late in Wednesday's match at Elon.
But the momentum wasn't enough as the Phoenix swept the Aggies 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-23) at Alumni Gym. Freshman Brooke Stamnes led the team with eight kills and posted a .269 hitting percentage. Junior Jeana Daniels was perfect in the game, collecting four kills in four attempts. Freshman Ashley Johnson had her third double-digit digs contest with 14.
"We're not giving up. We're still trying to compete. We're learning how to be versatile and flexible because we're trying different lineups. We'll hit on the one that works, and once we do, we'll run with that," Clifton said.
The Aggies opened the third set with Stamnes on the outside, senior Andrea Evans in the middle, sophomore Aprill McRae on the right side, junior Chelsea Fox at setter and junior Murphye Williams and Johnson were positioned to play defense. Those six players helped the Aggies gain a 17-15 lead.
Elon tied the set at 17-17, leading A&T to call a timeout. Elon got the next two points out of the timeout, but the Aggies fought back and tied the set at 22 thanks to an attack and ball handling error. After the Phoenix recaptured the lead, a long rally tied the set again as Elon's Allison Johnson blasted her attack out of bounds.
But Elon collected the last two points to secure the victory.
"We worked together for six years, so we both knew what we were going to do, probably," said Clifton, a former Elon assistant volleyball coach under head coach Mary Tendler. "They did it better than we did it. They were crisper, they were a little bit faster, they were a little bit more relaxed. They executed better than we did tonight."
In the first set, the Aggies fell behind 14-6, and were never able to overcome the early deficit. In the second set, A&T started off better by winning the first three points on a kill by Evans and a service ace by freshman Aleena McDaniel.
The two teams exchanged leads early until Elon went on a 6-2 run to take an eight-point lead. After a rally, Stamnes ignited a 3-0 run on a Stamnes kill. Daniels capped the run with consecutive kills. With Elon leading 19-12, a kill by Stamnes pulled A&T within six points. But Elon kept the pressure on the Aggies and took the second set by a 25-16 final.
The Aggies will keep working to find the right lineup as they will leave Greensboro on Thursday afternoon to travel to Baltimore to compete in the Coppin State Invitational Tournament. The Aggies will play four matches in the tournament before returning home to co-host the Spartan-Aggie Invitational Tournament with UNC Greensboro.
"I'm excited for what lies ahead for us. As we get more experience and see different things, we'll just keep putting that in our bank and keep getting better," Clifton said. "Right now we're trying different people in different positions. We're not trying to win the world at this point; we're trying to find what's going to work best for Aggie volleyball."