ROCK HILL, S.C. – It was not the start the North Carolina A&T volleyball team wanted. Morehead State got 15 kills from Olivia Lohmeier to down the Aggies 3-0 (25-19, 17, 12) during the first day of the Cristi Curtis Volleyball Invitational hosted by Winthrop University at the Winthrop Coliseum.
But now that the 2019 season has started, N.C. A&T head coach Hal Clifton got a chance to see where his team needs to improve as they march toward larger goals at season’s end. Clifton got a good look at his team against stiff competition.
The Eagles are picked to finish third in the Ohio Valley Conference and they returned their leading offensive weapon from last season in Lohmeier. Clifton said his team played well at times, which was good to see. In fact, the Aggies opened the first set by scoring the first three points.
A kill by redshirt sophomore Fatimah Shabazz kept the Aggies (0-1) in front, 6-3. But the Eagles (1-0) fought back and tied the set on a kill from Lauren Rokey. From there, Morehead went on a 7-1 run to take a 16-10 lead. The Aggies were not able to get any closer than four the rest of the set.
N.C. A&T did not get off to as good a start in Set 2. They fell behind 5-2. Powered by kills from senior Christa Wilson and Shabazz, however, the Aggies claimed an 11-9 lead forcing the Eagles to call timeout.
Even after the timeout, the Aggies were able to maintain the lead. A kill by freshman Mallory Porcher gave the Aggies a 14-12 lead and an Edie Brewer kill kept the Aggies in front by two, 15-13. Morehead grabbed the lead for good in the set on a kill from Mia Swearingen that put the Eagles ahead 17-16.
Morehead extended their lead to three, 20-17, before a service error by Allison Whitten put the Aggies back to within two. But a 3-0 run by the Eagles all but put the Aggies away in Set 2. The Eagles jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the third set and the Aggies could not recover.
Shabazz led the Aggies by matching her career high with eight kills. Shabazz’s other eight-kill match came in the quarterfinals of the MEAC tournament last season against Maryland Eastern Shore. Brewer added seven kills, 15 assists and three digs. Junior Courteney Pitt finished with seven kills and six digs.
“We just were not able to find our rhythm in the third,” said Clifton. “We played a really good second set, and I thought a play or two changed the momentum. Overall it was a decent start against a solid, well-experienced team.”
N.C. A&T will play host Winthrop 1 p.m., Saturday at the Winthrop Coliseum. The Aggies will then close out the tournament with a 4 p.m., match against Davidson.