GREENSBORO—After a strong finish to the 2012 season with consecutive MEAC wins, the North Carolina A&T volleyball team continued to perform at a high level during its spring volleyball season.
The Aggies competed in several in-state matches in April, including a tournament at UNC Greensboro on April 6, and a match at Elon on April 8.
Overall, A&T head coach Hal Clifton said that he was pleased with the spring season, as the team improved in their defense and serve-receive skills. He added that he was able to see his players translate the skills and techniques they worked on individually into match play, as well as earn some reps in alternate positions.
While the Aggies return eight players, they are losing several others, including graduating players Andrea Evans and Devonte’ Reese. Middle blocker Aprill McRae, who had a strong first season for the Aggies after transferring from Virginia Commonwealth, will be devoting all of next year to women’s basketball.
“We had nine players which is a lot in the spring, so that gave us an opportunity to do some competition stuff and keep the girls in that frame of mind of competing,” Clifton said. “It’s a team performance, but we were looking individually at what each player was working on in individual lessons. They were able to carry that over into a match setting, and it was nice because we were able to see those things.”
The Aggies are also looking to transition rising senior Chelsea Fox from the setter position, which she assumed in the last two seasons to fill a hole in the team’s roster, back to a hitter position. Rising sophomore Aleena McDaniel got a chance to show off her skills at the setter position during the spring season, and rising sophomore Te’Borah Hawkins-Hollingsworth worked to transition from an outside hitter to a middle blocker position. Clifton also got to see more from rising sophomore Jasmine Jones, who competed at libero in place of an injured Ashley Johnson.
“(The spring season) gave a lot of players a chance to prove themselves that didn’t get a lot of playing time this past fall,” Clifton said. “They were able to get lots of play in in the spring matches, and they were able to show us what they were capable of doing. I feel like we have a really good handle on their abilities and where they fit, so it was nice.”
The Aggies started off the spring season by taking on Radford, Winthrop, UNC Charlotte and Davidson on April 6. Clifton was pleased with the offense, and added that even the points the Aggies lost, the young ladies still gave great effort.
At Elon on April 8, Clifton saw continued growth from his six rising sophomores, who will be the foundation for the program in the next few seasons. The Aggies split a pair of games against Elon. Clifton credited serving as key factor.
“We are focused on staying in system as much as possible for the spring,” Clifton said. “Our serving picked up and that helped a lot. I do feel like we can be a tough serving team top to bottom but we still have a couple of areas to improve on.”
The lineup tinkering in April gave Clifton and his players a good idea of how things will look in the fall.
“They’re excited about the fall,” Clifton said. “We finished on a really good note and finished on a two-game winning streak. They feel good that we can be competitive and that we can win matches, and I think they’re hungry to win those matches. Those five-set losses didn’t sit well with them.”