Livingston, Barnes Propel HPU Volleyball Panthers Past Huskies, 3-1

• Junior Molly Livingston posted a career-high eight blocks to go with 14 kills while hitting at a .722 clip on the afternoon.
• Senior Haley Barnes equaled her career best with four aces along with a match-high 16 kills.
• The Panthers are back on the court again on Friday at 6:30 p.m. against Cal Poly in their second match of the NIU Express Holiday Inn Invitational.

DeKALB, ILL. – The High Point University volleyball team opened the season with a 3-1 victory over Northern Illinois in the NIU Express Holiday Inn Invitational. Its pair of Wisconsin natives, senior Haley Barnes and junior Molly Livingston, led HPU’s attack combining for 30 kills as the Huskies (0-1) tallied 31 as a team.

High Point jumped on NIU early for a 25-11 win before the Huskies took set two (25-23). However, the Panthers claimed both sets following the intermission to complete the victory (25-20, 25-19).

“We have a lot of respect for this NIU program and coach Gooden,” Mendoza said. “I have to credit our group for the focus they came out with in the first set. It’s a lot of fun to watch them when they preform like that as a group. NIU rallied with so much energy in the second set and we would have liked to manage that better, but I liked the way we responded in the third and fourth sets to close the match. We can get a lot better as the season goes on, but today was a great start. We will try to come back with as good or better performance this evening against a really strong Cal Poly team.”

Livingston started her third year in the Purple & White with a bang setting a new career high with eight blocks while hitting .722 en route to a 14-kill outing. Meanwhile, Barnes tied her career-best mark with four aces while racking up a match-high 16 kills.

Joining Livingston in the middle, junior Jordan Hefner gave the squad three Panthers in double figures in kills with 10 while hitting at a .400 clip and adding three blocks.

Similarly, Barnes, junior Katie Tylman and freshman Katie Doering chipped in with three blocks apiece as HPU outblocked NIU 12 to six.

To go along with High Point’s 59-31 edge in kills, the Panthers also earned a +14 margin in digs (50-36). Leading the way from the back row, freshman Abby Bottomley tallied 14 digs. Meanwhile, Barnes rounded out her solid afternoon with eight digs as junior Abby Broadstreet registered five.

From their combined setters spot, sophomore Jenna Smith dished out 30 assists while adding two aces and four digs as senior Carly Jimenez posted 18 assists and five digs.

The dominance in the stats was reflective of the Panthers .312 to .083 advantage in hitting percentage on the afternoon.

The win marks High Point first season-opening win since it defeated Furman in five sets to open the 2014 campaign.

The Purple & White opened the match with a vengeance riding three Barnes aces to a 12-1 margin. From there, the lead grew as large as 14 (18-4) and never went below 10 as HPU closed out the set 25-11.

Unlike the first, NIU and High Point went back and forth in the second frame before the Huskies posted a late 4-0 run to take a lead and win the set, 25-23.

After the Huskies built an early lead, Livingston tallied back-to-back kills to spark a 12-5 HPU run giving the Panthers a 17-12 edge. Although they never led by more than five, the Purple & White cruised to a 25-20 victory.

In the fourth and final frame, the Wisconsin duo of Barnes and Livingston combined for 12 kills in the final frame as High Point closed out the match with a 25-19 win.

HPU continues play in the NIU Express Holiday Inn Invitational later on Friday with a 6:30 p.m. match against Cal Poly. The Mustangs swept Dayton in the first match of the tournament on Friday.