GREENSBORO, April 25, 2012 - One of the challenges the North Carolina A&T volleyball team faced in the 2011 season was a lack of depth. The Aggies started the 2011 season with the minimum of six players on the roster and added walk-ons as the season progressed.
The Aggies will likely not face depth problem in 2012.
Hal Clifton announced his 2012 recruiting class today - his first since being announced the head coach in August of 2011. Clifton was able to fill some pressing needs for the program, including two positions, libero and setter, where the Aggies have had to play players out of position in order to compete the last two years. The newcomers will join the team's seven returning letterwinners.
Ali Way (6-0, Setter, Stowell, Texas, East Chambers High School), Ashley Johnson (5-6, DS/LIB, Honolulu, Hi., Moanalua High School), Te'Borah Hawkins-Hollingswoth (6-0, MB/OH, Laurinburg N.C., Scotland County High), Aleena McDaniel (5-10, RS/MB, Indianapolis, Ind., Brebeuf Jesuit High School) and Brooke Stamnes (5-9, OH, Loreburn, Saskatchewan, Canada, Loreburn Central School) will all put on the Blue and Gold and personify Aggie Pride for A&T this upcoming season.
"Today is a great day for our volleyball program. It is with great excitement that we welcome our 2012 freshman class to North Carolina A&T and to our volleyball program," said Clifton. "These young ladies will make an immediate impact on our program. Combine that with the efforts of our returners and we are looking forward to an exciting 2012 season.
"We were able to bring some height, versatility, ball control and some fire power with this class," Clifton added.
Over the last two seasons, players have had to play out of position in order to fill the need at the setter position for A&T. This will not be the case in 2012. Way is a true setter with an added bonus. Height. Way was an all-conference performer in volleyball and basketball at East Chambers High School. She also led the Jefferson County Juniors club team to two Houston tournament championships during the 2011-12 season.
"Ali has very nice hands and delivers a consistent, hittable ball," said Clifton. "At six-foot, she brings height to the net for blocking and for setting our middles. Hopefully that will allow us to run a faster offense. Ali also hits a very hard ball so she will bring some versatility to our lineup."
Libero is another position where the Aggies have lacked the last few seasons. Senior Bridget McCaskill returned to the team after the 2011 season started to help fill the void last season. The Aggies will take comfort in knowing they have options at the position to open the season. Clifton says Johnson has learned from one of the best coaches he knows in Debbie Yee of the Jammers Volleyball Club.
Johnson is going to graduate Cum Laude in May from Moanalua High School. Johnson's defensive skills helped the Jammers win bronze at the Junior Nationals in 2010, the Aloha Region Championship in 2011 and the Women's Division A Championship (Haili Tournament) in 2012. Johnson earned All-Star Player honors after the tournament.
"AJ is a great defender and I have seen her come up with some amazing touches," he said. "She is extremely quick, but she has a knowledge of the game that allows her to see things before they happen. She is an excellent passer and will be able to anchor our serve receive."
Hawkins-Hollingsworth is the only in-state recruit in this year's class. She earned all-conference honors at Scotland High School as a junior and senior. She also made the all-tournament team as a Junior Olympian in 2012. Clifton is forecasting a quick learning curve for the six-foot Laurinburg, N.C., native.
"She is a versatile player that will see time as a middle blocker and at the pins," Clifton said. "She has a very explosive approach and a fast arm. Te'Borah can be a threat both on the net and out of the back row."
McDaniel comes to A&T after being a starter on a nationally-ranked team at Brebeuf Jesuit High. She also played on a strong Team Indiana club team. Clifton says she possess a high level of volleyball knowledge and experience. In 2011, she was an All-Marion County standout along with being named second-team All-State. McDaniel played on a state championship team in 2009 and state runner-up squad in '10.
"Aleena will add immediate depth to the right side with her ability to attack and block. She will also see some time in the middle so that we can have depth at that position," Clifton said.
Coming from the Great White North to bring some international experience to the team is Stamnes. She is an all-around player and is highly successful in all aspects of the game-passing, hitting and defending. Stamnes is also a winner, having competed and won in both Canadian and American tournaments, as well as winning three provincial championships (the equivalent to a high school state crown). As a part of the Saskatoon JCVC Extreme club team, Stamnes won a bronze medal in the Canada Summer Games.
"Her hard work and competitiveness will bring the level of play up in our gym," said Clifton. "Brooke has a tremendous arm but has also developed some shots which will help her score points. Brooke is a primary passer and a very good defender. Fundamentally Brooke is very solid and will be a true six-rotation player."