ORANGESBURG – Three players added double-figure kills for the North Carolina A&T volleyball team but it wouldn’t be enough as they dropped a 3-1 (23-25, 18, 25-21, 23) decision in the regular-season finale against S.C. State at Dukes Gymnasium on Sunday evening.
The Aggies end the regular season with a 6-4 record in the MEAC and 7-24 mark overall. With Friday’s win over Savannah State, A&T claimed the second seed in the Southern Division to head into the MEAC Tournament. Postseason play will begin on Nov. 15 and will be hosted by Coppin State in Baltimore. It is the Aggies first appearance in the postseason since the 2007 season.
Aleena McDaniel led the attack for A&T with 14 kills and seven digs. Brooke Stamnes added 13 kills. Te'Borah Hawkins-Hollingsworth finished with 11 kills on 20 attacks to hit a team-high .450. Liz Martino tallied 25 assists and Ashley Johnson recorded 12 digs.
Despite a balanced performance for the Aggies, the Bulldogs (6-21, 5-5) were led by standout Desire Waller who finished with 26 kills and seven digs. Marissa Lawerence finished with 14 kills and Melanie Williams added 46 assists. Victoria Ferguson led S.C. State defensively with 21 digs. With the win, the Bulldogs earned the third seed going into the MEAC tournament.
The Bulldogs led for the most of the first set until the Aggies took the 22-19 edge with a kill from Hawkins-Hollingsworth. But SCSU registered four consecutive points to retake the lead 23-22. Stamnes tied the game at 23 with a kill, but Waller answered and handed down two straight kills to win the set.
After trailing 18-12, the Aggies put together a 5-0 run to cut the Bulldogs advantage to 18-17 in the second set. But the Bulldogs ended the set on a 7-1 run to silence the Aggies comeback.
A&T used a pair of 4-0 rallies to upend SCSU in the third set with its second run lifting it to a 19-14 lead. The Bulldogs scored the next three points, cutting the Aggies lead to 19-17. After exchanging points, the Bulldogs sliced A&T’s lead to 23-21 but an error and a service ace from McDaniel helped the Aggies win the set.
The fourth set was yet another battle for each team. Jillian Nobles who finished with six aces used one to give A&T the 20-19 lead. Two back-to-back points from the Bulldogs put them up by one, but McDaniel responded with a kill to tie the game at 21. Both teams went back and forth and Waller gave her team the 24-22 lead. Stamnes used a kill to keep the set alive for A&T but Waller answered and won the set with a kill.
“We played a little sloppy and it showed,” head coach Hal Clifton said. “We are a lot younger than other teams. We have to learn to compete at every point and when we get out in front we have to finish. I’m still very proud of what we did this year with only one upperclassman.”