COLUMBIA, S.C. – The High Point University volleyball team won the season opener on Friday with a thrilling five-set win over Florida International at the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. HPU trailed as late as 11-10 in the fifth set before coming back to win the frame 15-13.
Junior Chelsea Davis led HPU with 23 kills and 19 digs. Junior Kristin Heldt also posted 20 kills and senior Maddie Simpson dished out 54 assists and 11 digs for a double-double. Junior Katie Vincent added eight kills and five blocks.
“This was a great first match against a very tough Florida International team,” said head coach Jason Oliver. “In the end it came down to attention to details and we were able to pull it out in the fifth set. FIU is very similar to a team in our conference, Coastal Carolina, so that win will teach us a lot.”
Junior Chelsea Blanford put up a solo block on Gloria Levorin to get HPU within two points, 11-9, in the fifth set. Heldt followed with a kill and an FIU attack error tied the set 11-11. High Point rattled off the next three points with kills by Davis and Heldt to bring up match point, 14-11. FIU fought off match point twice but Anabela Sataric served the ball long and HPU pulled out the 15-13 win.
High Point hit .577 in the first set with 16 kills and just one error to win the frame 25-19. HPU took a 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-23 win in the second frame. The Panthers spread the ball around in the second set with five kills for Heldt, four for Davis and two each for Blanford and freshman Savannah Angel.
Florida International battled back to tie the match 2-2 with wins in the third and fourth sets, 25-21 and 25-22. The third set was tied 21-21 and Florida International finished the frame with a four-point run. Davis had a kill in the fourth set to once again tie it up late, 20-20. Another late run propelled FIU to a 25-22 win in the fourth set and forced a decisive fifth set that HPU would win late.
Blanford finished the match with seven kills and four blocks and sophomore Annemarie Chin added 15 digs.
High Point will have a short break before facing South Carolina State at 4 p.m. South Carolina State opened the tournament with a 3-0 loss to South Carolina.