WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the battle of the two undefeated teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), North Carolina A&T’s comeback bid fell short as Howard came away with a 3-2 win (25-23, 25-21, 17-25, 20-25, 15-5) at Howard’s Burr Gymnasium on Sunday.
“We played up and down in the first two sets, but still had chances,” N.C. A&T coach Hal Clifton said. “We found some rhythm in the third and fourth sets. I felt like we competed well. We found a way to make the match go to a fifth set, but a couple of early points gave Howard some momentum and we just couldn’t catch up.”
Junior setter/right side Edie Brewer recorded her seventh triple-double of the season with a match-high 23 assists and to go along with 19 digs and 13 kills. She also had five blocks. Right side hitter Fatimah Shabazz ended the night with 13 kills and five blocks. Junior outside hitter Courteney Pitt also had 13 kills to go along with five digs and three blocks.
Freshman setter Addy Warfield posted19 assists and sophomore libero Andrea Laboy-Rivera finished with 17 digs. Sophomore middle hitter Shaylynn Hall recorded a match-high nine blocks (two solos) and added seven kills with a .545 hitting percentage. Freshman middle hitter Mallory Porcher added seven blocks. The 17.0 team blocks are tied for the third-most in school history and tied for the most in a five-setter.
Howard won the first two sets by a combined six points, but the Aggies battled back to win the third and fourth sets. Unfortunately, the Bison had no attack errors in nine attempts and hit .889 in the fifth set to come away with the win.
In the final stanza, Howard grabbed a 7-0 lead. The Aggies scored the next two points on a kill apiece from Shabazz and Hall. The Bison scored the next three points to take an eight-point lead at 10-2.
A service error by the Bison helped the Aggies cut the lead to 12-5, but the Bison scored the final three points to secure the set, the match and their nine-match win streak. The Aggies hit .000 in the final set.
“Overall, it was still a good weekend,” said Clifton, who saw his team fall to 11-13 overall and 9-1 in the MEAC. “We are just a win away from clinching the (MEAC Southern Division), which has been our goal all season. We learned a few things from this match, which we will take back to the gym and keep working hard to get better.”
Howard (12-11, 9-0 MEAC) opened up an 18-13 lead to open the match. A kill apiece from Pitt and Brewer cut Howard’s lead to three before the Bison scored the next two to regain a five-point advantage. N.C. A&T rallied, however. A kill from Shabazz and an attack error by Howard got the Aggies to within one at 22-21.
After a Howard kill, the Aggies scored the next two points after back-to-back Howard errors to tie the set at 23. N.C. A&T committed an attack error and service error to give the Bison the two-point set win. After two Pitt kills and a Porcher kill, the Aggies held a 12-7 second-set lead. Howard rallied to take a 16-15 lead before a Shabazz kill tied the set at 16.
The Bison regained the lead at 21-18 forcing an Aggies timeout. After the timeout, the Aggies got a block assist from Brewer and Porcher and a kill from Brewer to cut the lead to 23-21. Howard’s Tamar Wells earned a kill and Jurnee Tipton scored on an ace to give the Bison a 2-0 match lead.
With Macenzie Richards serving, N.C. A&T scored four straight points to take a 16-11 lead in the third set. Howard never any closer than five points the rest of the set as the Aggies closed the third on a 3-0 run as Richards slammed down two kills and Pitt and Richards teamed for a block assist to cut Howard’s match lead to 2-1.
A 5-0 run in the fourth helped the Aggies take command at 18-13. Howard scored the next three points to cut the lead to two points, 18-16, but the Aggies scored the next two points to increase the lead to five points at 21-16. It forced Howard to call its second timeout of the set. After the timeout, the Bison scored four of the next six points to cut the lead to three points, 23-20. But back-to-back Howard attack errors gave the Aggies the five-point set forcing the fifth set.
Wells led the Bison with 15 kills.
The Aggies look to capture the MEAC Southern Division crown against North Carolina Central 6 p.m., Friday in Durham, N.C.