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Sat, Nov 17
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 17, 2018) –  William Jefferson Clinton is the President of the United States. Current North Carolina A&T head volleyball coach Hal Clifton two years removed from receiving a master’s degree from the University of Florida in exercise and sports management. Many of his current players have not even been born yet. And no one knew what a smartphone was.

It is 1998. That is the last time N.C. A&T defeated Florida A&M in volleyball. Scratch that. That is the last time N.C. A&T beat FAMU in volleyball before Saturday night’s 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 17-25, 26-24) win over the Rattlers in the semifinals of the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Volleyball Championship tournament at Howard University’s Burr Gymnasium.

The Aggies win ends a 40-match losing streak to the Rattlers. It also places the Aggies in the championship match for the first time since 2005 when they lost to FAMU 3-0. The Aggies will face tournament host Howard in the championship match 8 p.m., Sunday at Burr Gym. The Bison (19-10) will be going after their fourth straight MEAC title, while the Aggies (14-11) will try to capture the program’s first-ever MEAC championship. A year after N.C. A&T Athletics won 10 MEAC championships (regular-season and tournament), the Aggies already have two -- football and men's cross country -- and will go for a third on Sunday.  

“To beat FAMU was especially exciting for me personally and for the program as a whole,” said Clifton. “They are a well-coached team with a talented group of players. I’m just so happy for our young ladies.”

Once again, it appeared as if sophomore Edie Brewer is playing like someone with something to prove. She excellent once again in many areas on the floor for the Aggies. She finished with 10 kills, 24 assists, six digs, two service aces and five blocks. In two tournament matches, she has 21 kills, 51 assists, 15 digs, seven service aces and eight blocks. Brewer also has an impressive .400 hitting percentage for the tournament.

Sophomore and first-team all-conference standout Courteney Pitt added 16 kills, five digs and two blocks, while freshman Andrea Laboy-Rivera had her typical solid performance on the back row with 18 digs. Freshman Macenzie Richards finished with eight kills and a .294 hitting percentage. Senior Megan Wiggins contributed with 19 assists of her own.

N.C. A&T led 2-1 going into the fourth set. A Richards kill gave the Aggies a 20-17 lead. But FAMU’s Radka Dimitrova cut the Aggies lead to one, 22-21, with a kill. A solo block by Brewer extended the Aggies lead to two before Dimitrova smacked down another kill followed by an Aggies attack error that tied the fourth set at 23.

But one of those Aggies players not yet born in 1998, freshman middle Shaylynn Hall, put the Aggies back in the lead with a kill. Junior Christa Wilson ended the set and the match in what must have been gratifying for the veteran player as her kill ended the long losing streak to the Rattlers and sent the Aggies into Championship Sunday.

“What an excellent win for the Aggies today,” said Clifton. “I’m so proud of how our team competed and held it together. It was a battle from start to finish. It’s a testament to how they have worked so hard and how far they have come as a team.”

For the second straight day, the Aggies won the first two sets. Pitt had four kills and no attack errors on five attempts in the Aggies first-set win. Pitt and Brewer were dominant in set No. 2 as Brewer finished with four kills and no attack errors on seven attempts. Pitt finished with six kills in the set. The third set was a little rougher for the Aggies. They hit just .111 while the Rattlers stayed alive in the match by hitting .324.

But the Aggies looked fully recovered against the MEAC Southern Division regular-season champion Rattlers by the fourth set as they opened an 11-7 lead before ending the Rattlers season at 11-16.

“Our sideline was essential,” said Clifton, who was an assistant coach at Elon in 2005, the last time the Aggies were in a championship final. “Their energy was contagious, and their support was awesome.”