• With the win, the Panthers advance to the semifinals to take on the winner of No. 2 Coastal Carolina/No. 7 Gardner-Webb
• Senior Kristin Heldt led HPU with 14 kills; Gaby Mirand added 42 assists and a career-high five aces
• HPU was +20 in kills (49-29) and out-hit Liberty, .282-.136)
CONWAY, S.C. – Gaby Mirand got High Point University off to a quick start and Kristin Heldt stepped up when the team needed a spark the most to lead the No. 6 seed Panthers to a sweep of the third-seeded Liberty Flames Thursday night in the Big South Championship quarterfinals.
HPU (13-15, 6-8 BSC) cruised through the first two sets (25-15 and 25-17), but found itself in a dogfight in the third set before pulling away late to close out the match with a 25-21 victory.
With the win, HPU advances to the Big South semifinals for the second-straight season. The Panthers will play the winner of No. 2 Coastal Carolina/No. 7 Gardner-Webb on Friday at 7 p.m.
High Point out-hit Liberty .282 to .136 in the three-set victory and held a +20 advantage in kills (49-29). The Panthers also held significant edges in assists (45-29), digs (53-43) and service aces (6-2).
Heldt – an All-Big South First Team selection – led the way offensively with 14 kills and hit .310 while freshman Haley Barnes joined her in double digits with 10 kills and added seven digs. Freshman Camryn Freiberg and senior Chelsea Davis each posted nine kills as Mirand distributed the ball evenly. The Long Beach, Calif., native compiled 42 assists (14.0/set) in the match, while also posting a career-best five aces. Junior libero Wavie Chin led the defense with 22 digs (7.3) and sophomore Savannah Angel had one solo block and two block assists.
Mirand made an impact immediately, serving up back-to-back aces to start the match and then continued to keep the pressure on the Flames with 17 first-set assists. Thanks in large part to Mirand’s sets and a balanced attack, the Panthers peppered Liberty’s defense en route to a .484 hitting percentage in the initial set.
“Obviously, from the first whistle Gaby Mirand was special from the service line and that really set a tone for the way our team,” head coach Jason Oliver said. “We executed our gameplan and it was one of our best performances of the year.”
Davis and Barnes each posted five kills in the frame while Heldt and Freiberg added four each. But when it came time to close out the set Mirand decided to take care of it herself. The junior finished it off by tipping the ball to the floor to complete the 25-15 win.
While it was the offensive attack that carried the Panthers to a win in the first set, the defense starred in set two. High Point held Liberty to .000 hitting while forcing seven errors by the Flames. The Panthers recorded 19 digs, highlighted by seven from Wavie Chin and four from Annemarie Chin. Heldt led the offense with six kills and a .600 hitting percentage. Mirand did more damage registering two more aces in the middle of the set when the Flames started making a run.
Liberty came out hot in the third set, but two blocks by Angel helped stem the tide. The two teams went back and forth until a block by Heldt completely turned the flow of the third and final set. Heldt’s block was all part of the plan and came just when the Panthers needed their All-Big South first-teamer to step up.
“Kristin’s block is something that we worked on all week knowing that she was going to have to make a play,” Oliver said. “We won two sets against Liberty at their place and then lost the next three this year. So to have Kristin come up with that play was a huge leadership moment and a big time play.”
Another ace from Mirand extended HPU’s lead to 13-10. From there the Panthers were able to keep the Flames at arm’s reach as Heldt and Freiberg kept finding holes in the Liberty defense to grab a 20-16 lead. Megan Kennedy collected the next two kills to put HPU in position to close out the match, but the Flames scored five of the next seven to get as close as 24-21. But Barnes had seen enough and ended there with a powerful kill to close out the match.
The Panthers split two regular season meetings with Liberty, losing in five sets in Lynchburg while earning a four-set victory inside the Millis Center. Oliver has now earned wins in four of his last five contests against the Flames.