GREENSBORO-The North Carolina A&T volleyball team showed their mettle in their home opener on Friday evening in Corbett Sports Center in front of a boisterous crowd of 412.
"I thought we competed very well against a very talented American team. That team's dominated the Patriot League for the last 13, 14 years. I thought we competed well, we were very resilient and so I'm really proud of our girls," said head coach Hal Clifton.
The Aggies (0-9) took on a tough American (3-3) squad on Friday, and were swept 25-12, 25-7, 25-18. But they did not give up many points without a long rally. The Aggies were led by freshman outside hitter Brooke Stamnes who matched a season-best with 12 kills and set a season high with a .320 hitting percentage. She also led the team with five digs.
"Brooke played amazingly well. She hit against a huge block. We weren't in system enough to go to our middles," Clifton said. "We put a lot of pressure on our pin hitters to get the job done tonight, and Brooke did a fantastic job of scoring against a huge block and solid defense. Her passing was on and she played a tremendous match for us tonight."
The Aggies and Eagles battled point for point over the first 12 points of the first set as the match started off with some exciting competition. A&T collected four straight points early. Stamnes' kill ted the set at 12, but then she committed an attack error to give the lead right back to the Eagles. From there, the Eagles collected 12 consecutive points to win the set.
"I've not seen a team serve as well as American served tonight in a really long time," said Clifton who noted that the Eagles had 13 service aces in the match. "I'm proud of my girls for handling it. They were blasting balls from the service line, they were in the zone, they hardly missed. Our girls did really well against that. We have a lot of young kids playing against a seasoned opponent."
After a disappointing second set, the Aggies played their best set in the third. Junior Jeana Daniels began the set with a kill. The Eagles collected three straight points to end the early A&T lead. A kill by Stamnes ended the Eagles run, and later a kill by Andrea Evans brought the Aggies within one point at 5-4.
Stamnes gave the Aggies their fifth point of the set with a kill following a long rally. The Aggies kept working to cut the deficit, as a kill by Stamnes and Daniels brought A&T within one at 8-7. As the crowd added to the excitement of the Aggies' rally as Daniels tied the set with another kill. An attack error by the Eagles tied the contest at 10.
"We were able to serve/receive some balls finally and get into a little bit of an offense. Once we did that, we were able to go at it fairly well," Clifton said of his team's improvement in the third set.
The Eagles pulled ahead to a 17-12 lead, but A&T didn't give up. Stamnes collected two consecutive points to bring the Aggies within two at 18-16. But the Eagles closed out the set with a 7-2 run. The Eagles made just three attack errors on the night, and totaled a .588 hitting percentage in the tilt.
Despite the loss, the Aggies are optimistic about the rest of their home schedule, as long as they continue to draw the audience they did Friday.
"The crowd was amazing. That was just perfect. I'm so thankful for all the fans that came out and all the cheering that they did for our kids. It was just a great volleyball atmosphere for both sides. If we can get fans like that every night, we're going to be successful," Clifton said.