ROCK HILL, S.C.-The North Carolina A&T volleyball team is still working to find the perfect lineup to take into conference play. The Aggies tried a new lineup on Friday afternoon against Winthrop in the first match of the Winthrop Classic at the Winthrop Coliseum, but had trouble with securing a winning result.
The Aggies (0-13) struggled to get in attack rhythm against the defending Big South regular-season champion Eagles as they were swept, 25-15, 25-8, 25-17. A&T has lost the last 17 sets, facing a tough non-conference slate.
"Right now we're struggling just trying to put the ball away," said A&T head coach Hal Clifton. "That's what it comes down to, just not having the opportunities. We're not making efficient swings, we're not making good decisions, and we're not attacking well. Statistically we're in every match with the exception of hitting. Other teams out-hit us and we can't find a way to put the ball away."
The Aggies made 85 attacks on Friday, but only landed 15 for kills and totaled 19 errors. The Aggies had to settle for making over passes instead of attacks at several points during the match.
Junior Chelsea Fox, who was playing left side for the first time, totaled a team-best seven kills in 19 attempts. Freshman Ashley Johnson posted 11 digs for her seventh double-digit digs match. Senior Andrea Evans added three blocks in the game. Sophomores Ian Thompson and Destinee Locklear both made their first appearances of the season in the match.
"There were 16 times that we hit the ball clearly out of bounds or in the bottom of the net. We had moments where we put together a lot of really good points, but there are too many points in between those points and other teams just pull away from us and we can't catch up," Clifton said.
In the first set, the Aggies and Eagles traded points, and had three ties early. A block by Fox and Evans tied it up at 6-6. But Winthrop took a 9-6 lead on a three-point run, and after a point by the Aggies, the Eagles pulled ahead to 13-7.
In the second set, Winthrop jumped ahead to an 8-1 lead and won easily.
In the third set, a kill by Evans made it a 19-10 contest as the Aggies worked to put pressure on the Eagles. A kill by Fox cut the deficit to eight points, and the Aggies followed that with a service ace by junior Murphye Williams. But a service error by Williams returned serve to Winthrop. The Aggies collected five more points, but so did the Eagles to secure the match victory.
"We're struggling to find the five players that are going to put the ball away consistently. We're looking for players that are going to take big swings, and aren't afraid of the other team. We're looking for players that are going to go after the ball like they're trying to score," Clifton said. "Once we find those five kids, I think we'll be ok."
The Aggies will take on North Florida at 10 a.m., and Mercer at 5 p.m., on Saturday at the Winthrop Coliseum as they wrap up their final regular-season tournament. The Aggies will open conference play at home on Sept. 28 against arch-rival N.C. Central at 7 p.m.