EAST GREENSBORO – Junior North Carolina A&T setter Edie Brewer nearly recorded another career triple-double as N.C. A&T lost 3-1 (25-22, 25-21, 22-25, 27-25) to USC Upstate in what was a hard-fought volleyball match at Corbett Sports Center Tuesday night in the Aggies home opener.
Brewer finished with 19 kills to go along with 27 assists and nine digs. Brewer added to her super night by also adding a match-high five service aces and a match-high .621 hitting percentage.
Junior outside hitter Courteney Pitt led the team with a match-high 20 kills to go along with six digs, two services and a .279 hitting percentage. Sophomore libero Andrea Laboy-Rivera led the team with 15 digs while freshman setter Addy Warfield added a career-high 24 assists. Sophomore right side hitter Fatimah Shabazz added 11 kills and four blocks.
“This was a very disappointing loss tonight simply because we didn’t finish the first two sets,” said N.C. A&T coach Hal Clifton. “Give Upstate credit for battling and staying in the fight. But we have to close out sets when the opportunity is there.”
N.C. A&T grabbed a 5-0 lead in the first set and eventually saw that lead increase to seven at 18-11. But the Spartans (2-8) closed the set on a 14-4 to win.
Like the first, the Aggies jumped out to a 5-0 advantage. N.C. A&T went ahead 13-7 after a kill from Pitt, two kills from Brewer and a Brewer service ace. The Spartans scored 12 of the next 16 points to take the lead away from the Aggies at 19-17. After a N.C. A&T timeout, the Aggies (2-9) scored the next two points to tie the set at 19, but the Spartans outscored the Aggies 6-2 the rest of the way to go ahead by two sets.
There was a reversal in the third set. It was the Spartans who jumped out to the early lead, 3-0. The Aggies fought back to take a 12-10 lead after back-to-back Pitt kills and two consecutive Pitt aces. A kill by freshman Tasmyn Fahey and a Brewer kill added to the Aggies comeback.
With the Aggies still leading 17-15, N.C. A&T grew their lead by going on a 4-1 run to take a five-point edge, 21-16. After a Spartans timeout, Upstate was able to cut the Aggies lead to one at 23-22 forcing an Aggies timeout. After the timeout, N.C. A&T scored the final two points thanks to a Pitt kill and a Milanna Morgan ace as the Aggies extended the match with the third-set win.
The fourth set was close at the beginning as neither team held more than a two-point lead until the Aggies went up by three at 14-11 after a Pitt kill. N.C. A&T stretched its lead to five points, 17-12, after a Pitt kill, a Brewer kill and an Upstate attack error.
The Spartans slowly ate away at the Aggies lead cutting it two down to 19-17. But N.C. A&T scored the next four points to increase their lead to six points, 23-17. Brewer, Shabazz and Pitt had kills during the run.
Upstate responded with a 7-0 run to take a 24-23 lead. Shabazz tied the set at 24 with a kill before the Spartans regained the lead on a kill. A powerful kill by Pitt tied the match again, but a service error and a kill by the Spartans ended the set and the match.
“We became tentative and that is something we will work on in practice,” said Clifton. “We did have some bright moments. Edie was one dig away from another triple-double, we hit .279 as a team and we got off to great starts. Now, we will learn to finish.”
Clifton was also impressed by the Aggies home crowd saying that his players fed off their energy. He also thanked the Aggie Gentz for their generous donation to the volleyball program and Aggie Athletics.
N.C. A&T plays in the UNCW Hampton Inn Invitational this weekend in Wilmington, N.C. The Aggies face Western Carolina Friday at 4:30 p.m., followed by two matches Saturday with Drake at 10 a.m. and UNC Wilmington at 5 p.m.