GREENSBORO - North Carolina A&T's excellent freshman volleyball class led the way in a three-set sweep (25-12, 25-15, 25-18) of Savannah State Friday night at Moore Gymnasium. Brooke Stamnes finished with 13 kills and a .300 hitting percentage. Te'Borah Hawkins-Hollingsworth finished with nine kills and a .412 hitting percentage, while setter Ali Way had 23 assists and six digs.
But despite the impressive numbers by the freshmen, the night really belonged to Andrea Evans and Devonte' Reese. The Aggies celebrated Senior Night Friday as they honored Evans and Reese, two young ladies who will graduate in May. Reese, a political science major, actually has another year of eligibility on the court, but chose instead to graduate early in order to pursue postgraduate options. Evans showed tremendous strides throughout her career, and ended her career as one of the most accurate hitters on the team.
"They are tremendous people," said North Carolina A&T head coach Hal Clifton. "They're always doing the right things. They're great students. It says a lot about a young lady's determination when she is able to graduate a year early like Devonte'. Andrea is also an excellent student, they both lead by example on and off the court and they're unselfish. They'll be hard to replace and we're going to mix them."
Reese, who has battled injuries all season, is so selfless, she didn't even want to start on her Senior Night because she felt it would hurt the team. Clifton convinced her she deserved to be in there, and she responded by being very aggressive offensively. She had seven total attacks in the first set as an energized Aggies volleyball team dominated the Tigers (0-33, 0-9 MEAC). A&T (2-29, 2-7 MEAC) cruised to victory in the second set as well, but the Tigers put up a fight in the third. The Tigers took a 7-2 lead on a Maris Kellar attack error. The Tigers, who had a woeful -.023 hitting percentage, ran into offensive problems again. They committed four consecutive attack errors, and Aggies freshman Aleena McDaniel put down an ace to help the Aggies take an 11-9 lead.
Savannah State scored two straight points to tie the set before the Aggies took over. A&T outscored the Tigers 7-1 over the next few minutes aided by five Tiger attack errors.
"I'm very excited about the way the ladies played tonight," Clifton said. "I'm happy we were able to celebrate two careers that have meant so much to this program. It was great we were able to win for them. We got to play everybody and everybody contributed, so it was nice."
The Aggies were able to play everyone in uniform, including Ian Thompson who has played only four sets this season. The Aggies did not play junior setter Chelsea Fox because she was sick.
"We try to prepare for these situations," Clifton said. "Ali has been working with our starters a lot in practice this year, so the ladies are comfortable with her and Chelsea. We really didn't lose a whole lot with that."
Clifton showed off his future Friday night, but he hopes that future follows the example his May graduates set throughout their careers. Evans had three kills, no attack errors and two total blocks. Reese and Evans have one more match to play. The Aggies host S.C. State at Moore Gymnasium Sunday afternoon at 1.