HPU Volleyball Outlasts UNC Asheville In A 5-Set Thriller

• Sophomore Camryn Freiberg paced the Panthers with 18 kills to set a new career high while hitting at a .390 clip.
• Freshman Molly Livingston posted a career-best 17 kills with six coming in the opening set.
• The Panthers are off to their best start in Big South play (8-1) and have won eight straight matches for the first time in head coach Jason Oliver’s tenure.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The High Point University volleyball team earned a rousing comeback victory in the fifth set to improve to 8-1 in Big South play – the program’s best start in Big South play – at UNC Asheville on Friday night.

The Panthers (18-7, 8-1) jumped out to a 2 sets to none lead before seeing the Bulldogs (11-10, 4-5) claw back to take the next two sets and build an 11-10 advantage in the fifth. However, the Panthers earned the next five points – behind three kills from sophomore Haley Barnes – to earn a 15-11 win.

“What a great match to participate in tonight,” head coach Jason Oliver said. “Both teams played exceptionally well and I can’t say enough about our entire team. We made plays when they needed to be made and that was the difference in a very tight match. We have our work cut out for us and need to turn around and play another great team in Garnder-Webb.”

The win was the Panthers’ eighth straight – the longest streak under Oliver – and improved their record to 12-1 in their last 13 matches.

Sophomore Camryn Freiberg led the offense with a career-best 18 kills while hitting .390 on the night. Likewise, freshman Molly Livingston had a career night posting 17 kills and five blocks. Barnes finished with a double-double (10 kills and 10 digs) to go along with three service aces.

As always, senior Annemarie Chin’s 25 digs – including 10 in the second set – led the HPU defense. Meanwhile, senior Gabi Mirand dished out 49 assists and chipped in with 10 digs. Junior Megan Kennedy and senior Wavie Chin each added 13 digs on the night.

UNC Asheville earned a slight advantage in kills (63-61) and digs (88-85), however the Panthers posted a 10-7 edge in blocks and posted more aces (6-4).

After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-4 lead, Livingston led a 5-1 run with three kills to make it 9-7 in favor of the Purple& White. Asheville, then, pulled even on multiple occasions before HPU stretched its lead to four on a block by Livingston and a back-row kill by Barnes (18-14). The Panthers pulled away for a 25-19 win behind six kills (.857) and three total blocks from Livingston.

The two squads spilt the first 10 points before a block by freshman Abby Broadstreet and a kill from Freiberg sparked a 5-0 run to build a 10-5 edge. From there, the Panthers lead swelled to eight at 16-8. However, the Bulldogs cut their deficit down to two (17-15) with a 7-1 run. HPU, then, answered with the next two points to make it 19-15 as it held on for a 25-21 victory.

Neither team was able to build momentum early in the third frame until three straight points gave Asheville a 13-11 advantage. The Panthers battled back to within one (16-15), but couldn’t complete the comeback as the Bulldogs earned a 25-18 win. HPU could never get its offense going in the frame as the squad hit just .065.

Once again, the Bulldogs used an early run (5-0) to take a lead (9-6). However, HPU bounced right back to even the score at 9-9 after a block by Livingston and Freiberg. Asheville finally broke the stalemate and took a 17-14 edge. From there, the lead swelled to four before the Panthers fought back to make it 23-22. Freiberg followed with her 17th kill to even the score at 24-24, but the comeback fell short as the Bulldogs used consecutive blocks to win the frame (26-24).

Two kills from Barnes helped the Panthers earn a 5-5 tie early in the set before the Bulldogs took the next two to take a 7-5 advantage. Later, Livingston’s fifth block pulled the Panthers within one point (10-9). After Asheville responded with the next point, Livingston’s 17th kill make it 11-11. Barnes finally gave HPU the lead with a kill before Mirand extended it to two at 13-11. The sophomore kept the pressure on with her fourth kill of the set before a UNC Asheville attack error ended the set 15-11.

The Purple & White continue their 6-match road trip at Gardner-Webb on Saturday when they take on the Runnin’ Bulldogs are 2:00 p.m. in Boiling Spring, S.C.