Balance Keys HPU Volleyball’s Comeback Win Over Winthrop

• Freshman Molly Livingston’s 12 kills led a diverse High Point attack that featured five players with at least eight kills in the match.
• The Panthers are 4-1 to start Big South play, it’s the best conference start since 2010 when they started 7-1.
• HPU closes out its 4-match homestand on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. against Presbyterian in the team’s Dig Pink match.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University volleyball team dropped the first set against Winthrop before storming back for a 3-1 comeback victory in the Millis Center on Friday night.

The Panthers (14-7) fell behind after a 26-24 defeat in the first set, but bounced back winning the next three frames (25-22, 26-24 and 25-13) to dispatch of the Eagles (8-13, 3-3).

“Tonight’s match wasn’t necessarily a pretty sight, but we found a way to win and I think that’s the sign of a good team,” head coach Jason Oliver said. “The environment in Millis was great tonight and I don’t think our team was ready for it. However, slowly but surely, we were able to get a few more touches and make the adjustments we need to make to get the win.”

HPU’s balanced attack featured five Panthers with at least eight kills led by freshman Molly Livingston’s 12 kills on a .435 attack percentage. Meanwehile, sophomore Haley Barnes chipped in with her 12th double-double of the year with 10 kills and 12 digs.

Junior Megan Kennedy (9 kills), sophomore Camryn Freiberg (8 kills) and freshman Jordan Hefner (8 kills) rounded out the strong offensive output.

At setter, Senior Gabi Mirand orchestrated the attack with 43 assists as the Panthers hit .296 on the night. On the defensive side of the net, senior Annemarie Chin racked up 16 digs while five Panthers combined to post nine team blocks, led by Freiberg’s four block assists and one solo block.

Despite losing the battle for digs (60-55) and kills (52-51), HPU earned the win thanks to limiting its errors. The Panthers committed just 11 attack errors while Winthrop registered 30 to hit just .156 on the night.

The Eagles jumped out to an early 10-7 advantage and maintained that lead for much of the set. However, Freiberg got the Panthers back within one point with a kill and an ace on consecutive points (21-20). Livingston followed with a thunderous kill to knot the score at 21-all. From there, the squads traded points until Winthrop collected back-to-back kills to earn a 26-24 set victory.

HPU won the first three points to build a 3-0 lead in the second frame. The visitors, then, bounced back with a 13-7 extended run to take their own 3-point lead (13-10). But two aces from Mirand sparked an 8-1 run to give HPU a 19-15 edge. The Eagles wouldn’t go away and took a 20-19 lead with five straight points. However, Kennedy refused to let HPU lose and posted consecutive kills as the Panthers scored four of the last five points to win the frame 25-22.

After the break, the teams battled in another hard-fought set and found themselves tied 13-13 before two kills from Hefner helped HPU to a 17-14 advantage. Once again, the Winthrop fought back to knot the score at 19-all. But the Purple & White outscored the Eagles 7-5 for the remainder of the frame to earn a 26-24 win.

With a chance to close out the match, the Panthers came out and built a 9-3 lead in the fourth set. From there, the Purple & White pulled away for a 25-13 victory. HPU hit .484 in the frame behind five kills from Barnes and four from Kennedy.

The Panthers will be back in the Millis Center on Saturday afternoon for their Dig Pink match against Presbyterian at 2:00 p.m. The squad will then hit the road for five straight matches to close out the month.