GREENSBORO-The North Carolina A&T volleyball team is
learning how to persevere in adversity.
The Aggies' efforts have yet to produce the results they want, as they
loss in five sets for the second straight match with a 17-25, 25-17, 25-19,
22-25, 15-11 defeat at the hands of Bethune-Cookman at Moore Gymnasium.
"We battled again in another five-set match and came out on
the short end," said A&T head coach Hal Clifton after watching his Aggies
drop to 0-2 in the MEAC a week after losing in five sets to N.C. Central. "But
I'm happy with the way our girls are competing.
It's good to see what we're capable of doing at times. We're just not consistent at it. Until we start attacking smarter at times and
quit wasting swings and either live to fight another day or find a way to put
the ball away, we're going to struggle."
Despite the team's struggles with record a .135 hitting
percentage for the match and the growing pains of youth, Clifton knows daily
improvement will get the Aggies where they need to be as a team. The Aggies are
0-4 in five-set matches this season. But
that's more five-set matches than the team has played in total over the
previous three seasons combined.
"I'm not a coach that believes in moral victories," Clifton
said. "But I am a coach that believes that if you keep fighting, and if you
keep doing what you're supposed to do, it's going to pay off. So many people focus on win, win, win. But last year we weren't even in a position
to go five with anybody. So we're doing the right things at times, but we're
still making some inexperienced decisions.
Hopefully as we get mentally prepared and we learn more about the game
intellectually, we'll have fewer errors and we'll be able to win those matches."
Brooke Stamnes and
Aleena McDaniel led the Aggies with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. McDaniel posted her second double-double of
the year as she added 15 digs to her totals. Freshman libero Ashley Johnson led
the team with 18 digs. Sophomore Aprill
McRae had five total blocks in the match.
"We're putting a lot of pressure on young players to
perform. They're going to get better and
they're going to rise to the occasion.
Our kids are going to learn," Clifton said.
The Aggies (0-21, 0-2 MEAC) won the first set by posting a
.379 hitting percentage and then struggled through the next two sets by
producing just 14 kills on 63 swings. They had 13 errors in the process. But
senior Andrea Evans and McDaniel dominated the fourth set. Both players
recorded three kills without a hitting error. It resulted in the Aggies forcing
a fifth and deciding set.
In the deciding set, three attack errors put A&T in an
early 6-1 hole. Through resiliency, the Aggies made it competitive again as an
Aleena McDaniel kill made it a 13-10 set.
The Wildcats picked up a point on a kill by Aria Cormier to move into
match point at 14-10. A huge kill from
Evans kept the set alive. But Pierre
picked up her 17th kill on the night to secure the match for the
Wildcats (2-18, 2-0 MEAC).
The Aggies will take on Florida A&M at 1 p.m., at Moore
Gymnasium. Two days later, they will host the Radford Highlanders at 6 p.m.
"I just want to make sure that we don't come out flat. Losing two five-setters is tough mentally,"
Clifton said. "When you only have a few
upperclassmen who really haven't had the opportunity to experience this level
of competition day in and day out in their career, through no fault of their
own, it takes a long time to develop that 'we can win, we can fight, we can win
those close ones mentality.'"
He added: "Five-set losses hurt. I keep telling them that we've got to believe
in the process and that things are going to go our way. If we're still thinking about Friday night,
we're going to be 0-3 really fast."