HPU Volleyball Panthers fall to 49ers in five-set thriller

• Junior Haley Barnes paced the offense with 19 kills to go along with 14 digs in the victory.
• In a match that featured 31 blocks, sophomore Jordan Hefner posted seven kills while hitting .600 and racking up a career-best seven blocks.
• Junior Amy Pilat registered a career-high 33 digs to anchor the High Point University defense.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The High Point University volleyball team took a two-sets-to-one lead, but couldn’t hold off Charlotte in a five-set setback in the Black & Gold Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Friday night.

The Panthers (7-4) built a lead in the first set, but dropped the frame after a furious comeback by the 49ers (6-5) gave them a 25-22 win. The Purple & White rebounded to take the second and third (25-18 and 25-19) before Charlotte took the fourth and then made another comeback in the fifth (25-18 and 15-11).

“We put ourselves in a great position with leads late in four of the sets,” head coach Tom Mendoza said. “Unfortunately, we had a couple sloppy stretches of play that cost us the first and fifth set. You never need to play perfect, but we lost focus and didn’t recover as fast as we wanted, or needed, to. It’s a frustrating way to lose a match, so hopefully we will learn from it, put it behind us and come out ready for Wake Forest tomorrow.

Junior Haley Barnes led the way with 19 kills and 14 kills along with three block assists. Likewise, sophomore Molly Livingston had a solid night producing 16 kills while racking up six blocks in the match.

Defensively, junior Amy Pilat tallied a career-high 33 digs as the Panthers posted an 86-79 edge in digs.

In the middle, sophomore Jordan Hefner posted seven kills (.600) and a career-best seven kills. Meanwhile, sophomore Abby Broadstreet added nine kills and 13 digs as sophomore Katie Tylman and redshirt-senior Savannah Angel combined for 11 kills and seven blocks on the right side.

At the setter spot, freshman Jenna Smith upped her career high in both assists (37) and digs (11) as junior Carly Jimenez chipped in with 19 assists.

In the match, High Point registered a 65-53 advantage in kills and outhit the 49ers .179 to .167, but couldn’t overcome Charlotte’s 18 blocks and seven aces.

A pair of early blocks allowed the 49ers to jump out to a 5-3 lead. However, behind five kills from Livingston, the HPU offense built momentum as the team took a 20-15 lead. But Charlotte responded with a 10-2 run – anchored by three blocks – to take the set 25-22.

In the second set it was the Panthers who opened the frame with a block party. Three blocks sparked HPU to take the first eight points behind Broadstreet’s consistent serving.

Once again, the 49ers wouldn’t go quietly as they pulled within three (21-18) before Pilat’s serving run led the Panthers to a 25-18 win.

After the break, HPU maintained momentum by grabbing a 6-2 lead behind two kills from Barnes. The 49ers, then, pulled even (7-7) before Broadstreet served the Panthers to a 7-1 run to build a 14-8 edge.

From there, Charlotte couldn’t get any closer than three as the Purple & White pulled away for a 25-19 victory and take a 2-1 edge in the match.

The 49ers wouldn’t lie down, however, as Charlotte jumped on the Panthers and cruised to take the fourth set 25-18.

Two blocks sandwiched around a Tylman kill gave the Panthers a 5-3 edge early in the deciding set. The lead grew to 8-4 as the teams switched sides.

But on the switch the 49ers got it going again and finished the match on a 11-3 run to win the decisive set 15-11.

The Panthers will be back in action at the Black & Gold Invitational at the Summit School against Wake Forest (1 p.m.) and Wofford (5 p.m.).