WASHINGTON, D.C. – North Carolina A&T got a difficult first-round opponent in the 2019 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Championship Tournament but they handled the challenge well downing Maryland Eastern Shore 3-1 (25-21,25-23,25-27,25-19) Friday night at Howard University’s Burr Gymnasium.
The Aggies (16-13), the top seed out of the MEAC Southern Division, will advance to play the No. 2 team seed out of the north in Morgan State 8 p.m., Saturday at Burr Gymnasium.
UMES, the north’s fourth seed, ends its season at 12-19.
Junior setter Edie Brewer, the MEAC co-player of the year, recorded her eighth triple-double of the season with 14 kills, a team-high 31 assists and 11 digs. Brewer also posted four blocks and had a hitting percentage of .303.
“I can’t do anything without my teammates, whether it’s setting or digging or hitting,” Brewer said on her triple-double. “They definitely support me, and I step out and play.”
Two-time first-team All-MEAC performer Courteney Pitt recorded a match-high 18 kills and added seven digs, while sophomore right side hitter Fatimah Shabazz added 17 kills and four blocks with a .395 hitting percentage. Sophomore libero Andrea Laboy-Rivera recorded a match-high 20 digs and four assists.
Senior outside hitter Christa Wilson added nine digs and six kills. Freshman setter Addy Warfield finished with 21 assists and six digs.
UMES took a 17-16 lead on a ball-handling error by Brewer. But led by two Pitt kills, the Aggies were able to gain a 20-18 lead. The Shore scored the next two points to tie the set at 20, but Brewer slammed down a kill and senior Makaylah Elliott recorded an ace to put the Aggies up two. After a UMES kill, the Aggies closed out the set with a Brewer kill and back-to-back Shabazz kills to take a 1-0 match lead.
In the second stanza, UMES held a 21-19 advantage. A UMES service error and a Shaylynn Hall kill tied the set at 21. After a UMES kill to tie the set at 23, N.C. A&T won thanks to a UMES attack error and a Shabazz kill.
“We knew it was going to be a battle tonight,” said N.C. A&T coach Hal Clifton who saw the Hawks take his team to five sets before the Aggies were victorious in Greensboro. “I’m proud of how we competed and maintained our composure, especially in the first two sets. We fought hard to come from behind and win those sets late.”
N.C. A&T was on a mission to close out the Hawks in three as they held a 17-15 lead in Set 3.
UMES scored the next four points to take a 19-17 lead. Brewer was able to help the Aggies tie the set at 23 with a kill. A Hawks attack error put the Aggies on the brink of advancing to the semifinals for the second straight season, but UMES scored the next two points to take a 25-24 lead. A Shabazz kill tied the set at 25.
UMES scored on a kill and a block assist, however, to win the set and force a fourth set.
Undeterred, N.C. A&T jumped out to a 20-15. The Shore scored the next two points to cut the lead to three points, 20-17. Freshman middle Mallory Porcher put the Aggies back on the right track with a kill which was followed by a block assist from Elliott and Wilson to give N.C. A&T a 22-17 lead.
The Hawks never got any closer than four. Elliott closed things out with a thunderous kill. The Hawks were led by Alexis Lee with 13 kills.
“Fluttered in set three but came out strong in set four.,” said Clifton. “We made a couple of adjustments blocking wise, we handled the ball better in the fourth set and fortunately we came out with the win. We served them a little tougher at the end and got them out of system and that lead us to get some transition swings, which gave us the mini runs in the fourth set and that was enough to build a lead and finish off the match.”