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Lady Rams fall to Division I Alabama A&M

Albany State's Ashley Johnson goes up for a spike Tuesday against Alabama A&M. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

Albany State's Ashley Johnson goes up for a spike Tuesday against Alabama A&M. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — Amanda Cook knew all about the strength of schedule the Division I Alabama A&M volleyball team had played this year, so Albany State’s junior setter was admittedly surprised when the Lady Rams cruised to an easy win in the opening set.

What was equally surprising, however, was how the Lady Rams fell apart in the final three sets.

After decisively winning the first set, 25-16, Albany State dropped three straight — and the match — to Alabama A&M on Tuesday.

“I think we just got in our heads that we beat them so quick and so easy that we could hang with them easier,” Cook said. “So we went easier on them, and they came back and got us. Our defense was pretty bad. Our serve-receive was pretty rough. It was rough all over.”

ASU didn’t get more than 20 points in any of the final three sets, losing 25-20, 25-18 and 25-20.

“We got off to a great start but got too comfortable and too relaxed,” ASU coach Robert Skinner said. “We didn’t realize the intensity that we needed to play with. They are a Division I school, and they play a super schedule. For them to get beat in one game is nothing. They have been beaten a lot of times.”

A&M (5-16) had started the season with a disheartening 14 straight losses, but the Lady Bulldogs have rebounded with five wins in their last seven games. Albany State has now lost two straight out-of-conference games and is 10-8 overall but just 1-6 out of the conference.

Senior outside hitter Ashley Johnson had a game-high 13 kills and eight digs for ASU, while Jennifer Evans added seven kills and 12 digs and Jillian Anderson had six kills. Kaliah Carter paced the Lady Rams with 17 digs, and Cook finished with 27 assists and eight digs.

Both Cook and Skinner said Tuesday’s loss was a lesson learned for an ASU team that has struggled to keep its intensity high for an entire match this season.

“You have to go out with the same intensity each and every game,” Skinner said. “We just didn’t play the way we were capable of playing. It was a matter of them regrouping after they lost the first one and us not playing with the same intensity.”

After three straight games at home, the Lady Rams will now be on the road for their next two, including Friday in Columbus, S.C., against Benedict College.

PINK OUT: Tuesday was the Lady Rams’ annual “Pink Out” night, where they encouraged fans to wear pink to help raise awareness for breast cancer.

Local dentist Sonya Acree, an Albany State grad and breast cancer survivor, spoke in between the second and third sets and also handed out pink gift bags to players on both teams.