GREENSBORO - Days after earning an upset win over S.C. State, the North Carolina A&T volleyball team received another indication the program is on the rise. Freshman libero Ashley Johnson (5-foot-6 Ewa Beach, Hawaii) earned first-team All-MEAC honors. The Aggies also placed four players - senior Andrea Evans, juniors Devonte' Reese and Chelsea Fox and sophomore Destinee Locklear - on the MEAC All-Academic team.
Johnson ended her first season in the program with 461 digs, which were the most digs by any MEAC player this season.
Her 461 digs puts her at fourth on the A&T all-time single season digs list, and she is just the fourth player to record 400 or more digs in a single season. Johnson averaged 3.91 digs in 118 sets played. She also tallied 47 assists and 18 service aces.
Johnson has been highly effective as the Aggies chief defensive player in 2012. She had double-figure digs in 22 of the Aggies 32 matches, including a season-high 30 against N.C. Central on Sept. 28 at Moore Gymnasium. She had 20 or more digs in seven different matches, and she recorded double-figure digs in the Aggies final seven matches.
Johnson reached 400 digs on Nov. 2, by collecting 14 in at loss at Florida A&M. She is the first A&T player to record 400 digs in a season since 2007, when Stacey Malone ended the year with 513. She is the first A&T player to earn first-team All-MEAC honors since current assistant coach Arlene Mitchell did it in 2006. She is the first player to be named All-MEAC since Avignon Williams was a second-team selection in 2007.
"We are really proud of AJ. She has done a great job all year for us and it's nice that other coaches recognized her efforts," said A&T coach Hal Clifton. "I think being a freshman starting libero is very difficult. She handled the pressure very well and was able to lead our defense and serve receive. She is so athletic and quick and has a very sound technical game that is only going to get better. Mentally, she has a high volleyball IQ and that helps her see things developing and then being able to put herself in the right place."
On the academic side, Evans (Biology, Outside Hitter, 6-2), Fox (Nursing, Setter, 5-10), Locklear (Physics, DS, 5-8) and Reese (Criminal Justice, OH, 5-10) were among 55 student-athletes from the MEAC's 13 member institutions to be named to the All-Academic volleyball team.
To earn MEAC All-Academic team honors, student-athletes must have a 3.0 or better cumulative grade point average, hold sophomore to senior class standing and have studied and competed at the institution for at least one year.
"We are proud of our players for making the All-Academic team," said Clifton. "We stress the importance of getting their degree and we are fortunate that our team takes that very seriously. In today's vastly changing world it is so important for our players to leave here with a quality education and these young ladies are focused on making the most of their educational opportunity. To maintain a GPA above a 3.0 and to be a Division I athlete is no easy task. Both require a year-round commitment and it's great that they are being acknowledged for their dedication to their studies."