GREENSBORO – Behind the phenomenal efforts of sophomores Brooke Stamnes and Aleena McDaniel, the North Carolina A&T volleyball team defeated Alabama State 3-2 (28-26, 26-24, 25-17, 25-23, 16-14), in its home opener on Friday night. A&T's home opener was also its opening match of the Aggie-Spartan Invitational presented by Ashford Suites, a tournament it shares with crosstown rival UNC Greensboro.
After going 0-6 in five-set matches in 2012 and losing in five to Winthrop on Tuesday night, the Aggies (1-4) ended their misfortunes in five setters and defeated the Hornets (1-4) in thrilling fashion.
Fans cheered, applauded and stood on their feet inside a celebratory Moore Gymnasium because the Aggies were able to secure their first non-conference win since September 25, 2010, a 3-0 win over Savannah State before the Tigers joined the MEAC. That date also represents the last time the Aggies won in the month of September.
It's one of those things that you work so long and hard for,” said head volleyball coach Hal Clifton about the Aggies’ win. “It’s something you strive for in your program and it’s a great feeling.”
Stamnes and McDaniel recorded double-doubles. The pair both had 17 kills and 10 digs as McDaniel recorded a career high in kills and tallied her second straight double-double. Stamnes ended the night with a season-high in kills.
Te'Borah Hawkins-Hollingsworth also added 10 kills and finished with an impressive .333 hitting percentage.
The Aggies blew out to a two-set lead by winning the first two sets. After dropping the third set and falling behind 17-5 in the fourth set, the Aggies needed to find their spark again. The Aggies closed in on the Hornets’ lead with several rallies and got within reach, 24-23 courtesy of a Stamnes service ace. A service error prevented the Aggies from winning the set, but A&T momentum had already been established as the Aggies carried that energy into the fifth.
"I saw them come back to life at the end of the fourth set," said Clifton. "I figured that if we could get off on the right foot in the fifth, we'd have the momentum this time. In the previous five-set matches, we didn't have that momentum going. Tonight it made all the difference in the world."
The Aggies did jump out to a 7-3 lead, but Alabama State didn’t go away easily. The Hornets fought back to take a 14-13 lead on an Amber Bennett kill. But two ASU attack errors and a McDaniel kill gave the Aggies their long-awaited five-set win.
Myla Marshall (20) and Bennett (19) led Alabama State in kills. Bennett also finished with a game-high eight blocks.
The Aggies will host UNC Greensboro at 11 a.m., and Murray State at 4 p.m. on Saturday during the final day of the invitational at Moore Gymnasium.
“We expect consistency for Saturday’s games and throughout the season,” said Clifton. “We need to stay well-balanced and minimize mistakes.”