Site: Rock Hill, S.C. (Winthrop Coliseum)
Score: Campbell 3, High Point 2 (23-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-19, 15-13)
Records: HPU: 20-12 (12-2 Big South), CU: 17-12 (9-5 Big South)
ROCK HILL, S.C. – Three Panthers combined for 47 kills in Saturday night’s (Nov. 23) Big South Tournament Semifinal match against Campbell University but it wasn’t enough as the High Point University volleyball team saw its season end in a five-set loss to the Fighting Camels. Freshmen Megan Kratzer and Annie Sullivan led the way with 16 kills each and sophomore Gabrielle Idlebird added 15. It was a tale of two halves for HPU, with the Panthers hitting .478 in the two sets they won and just .149 in the final three sets.
The offense was on display early in the match, with both teams hitting no worse than .600 heading into the media timeout in the first with the Panthers up 15-11. High Point had the slight advantage, picking up 13 kills on 20 attempts for a .650 hitting percentage to Campbell’s .600. Idlebird led the team at the break with four kills, followed Kratzer with three and a pair of Kratzer’s classmates, Sullivan and Sopheea Mink with two each. Only two points were earned off of errors before the timeout, both from HPU service errors.
High Point regained a four-point lead quickly after losing it after the Fighting Camels committed their first errors of the match, with the second coming off a block from Big South Freshman of the Year Kaley Rammelsberg and redshirt sophomore Katie Doering.
Campbell came fighting back late in the set, going on a 4-1 run to make it a one-point set at 23-22 for the Panthers before HPU called timeout. The teams traded sideouts and timeouts after that point but High Point was able to get the final point it needed on a kill from Kratzer, her seventh of the set, to close it out 25-23 and take a 1-0 lead in the match. The Panthers’ offense stayed effective throughout the set, finishing with .548 hitting percentage after the first.
The Fighting Camels took a 5-3 lead early in the second set after serving up an ace and High Point being whistled for a ball-handling error. Neither team could gain much momentum after that point, trading sideouts for the next eight points before Campbell stuffed a Panther attack at the net to take a three-point lead. The lead ran to four before High Point decided to slow things down and take a timeout, down 11-7.
HPU went on a three-point run out of the timeout to make it a one-point affair, with Kratzer picking up her 10th kill of the contest and a Mink/Idlebird block on the right side of the net. The Panthers tied it up at 13 with Kratzer’s second ace of the match, and again at 15 and 16-all before taking their second timeout of the set down 18-16.
High Point won three straight out of the timeout to take its first lead since being up 3-2 at 19-18, thanks to a service ace from freshman Macy Miller that forced the Fighting Camels to take a timeout. Miller played a key role in HPU’s run after the timeout, almost getting her second straight ace and picking up two key digs and an assist on a Kratzer kill to make it 22-19 Panthers and force Campbell to call its second timeout of the set.
HPU closed out the set with three final kills from Kratzer, Idlebird, and Sullivan to take a 2-0 lead into the third set. The Panthers continued to be effective with their attacks, hitting .417 in the second for a total of .478 for the match. High Point’s defense stepped up in the set as well, holding Campbell to just a .194 hitting percentage.
Campbell took the first three points of the third stanza thanks to a trio of attack errors by the Panthers. High Point made up for it by winning the next three points to get the set back to level. The teams traded sideouts until the Purple and White took two in a row to take the lead at 7-6 thanks to a kill from Sullivan.
The Fighting Camels took the momentum and the lead shortly after with a 6-1 run to take the lead, 14-10. High Point held tough, picking up the next three points with an Idlebird kill, an ace from senior Jenna Smith, and a Campbell attack error to make it a one-point set again and forcing CU to take a timeout one point before the media timeout would’ve happened.
High Point tied it up after the timeout but lost the next three points before taking a timeout of its own, down 17-14. Campbell stayed hot out of the break, taking its largest lead of the set at 22-16 before trading sideouts to go up 23-17. The Panthers made it to 20 points before the Fighting Camels closed out the set with Lailah Green’s 14th kill of the match, 25-20, to force a fourth set.
The Panthers got on the board in the fourth set with a block from Idlebird and freshman Lucy Dumford and tied up the set at 3-3 on another block, this time from Rammelsberg and Mink. First Team All-Conference member Abby Bottomley served up her second service ace of the night to give HPU its first lead in the set at 6-5, followed by a kill from Idlebird. The lead didn’t last long as Campbell was able to knot it up at seven.
Things stayed close up to the media timeout, with the largest lead being a two-point lead for the Fighting Camels. High Point tied the set up 14-14 thanks to a Rammelsberg kill and then a block from her and Mink before Campbell picked up its 15th point of the set to trigger the media stoppage up 15-14. Campbell won the first two points out of the break to go up three and force a Panther timeout. High Point only got as close as two points down the rest of the set as the Fighting Camels took the set 25-19 to force a decisive fifth set.
High Point took the first two points of the final set and was up 3-2 before Campbell took the next four points to go up 5-3. The Panthers battled back and tied things up at 6-6 on a service ace from senior Jenna Weidner, HPU’s seventh of the match. The Purple and White took the lead at 8-7 to switch sides when Sullivan wiped a shot off the blockers at the net for her 15th kill of the match. Campbell called a timeout a point later after the Fighting Camels dumped an attack into the net to put HPU up two, 9-7.
Campbell won four straight points to take the lead 11-10 and forced the Panthers to talk things over. The run continued after the timeout, extending all the way up to six straight before Sullivan notched another kill to get the serve back down 13-11. Kratzer picked up two more kills on the next two points to tie things up at 13, with either team two points away from advancing to the championship match. An untimely service error sent the serve back over to Campbell, and the Fighting Camels picked up the final point they needed to advance to the championship match tomorrow against Winthrop.
High Point finishes the year with a 20-12 record and a 12-2 mark in Big South matches. The senior class of Weidner and Jenna Smith finish their careers with an 88-40 overall record and 53-9 mark in conference play, the most conference wins of any High Point class since the Panthers joined D1 in 1999.
Bottomley totaled 21 digs on the night to end the season with 630, the third-most in a single season in program history. The Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year has 1,776 digs in her career, third-best in HPU history, heading into her final season. She’s only 131 digs behind second place and 640 away from Julie Hershkowitz’s program record of 2,416. Bottomley needs seven service aces next year to be the sixth Panther to join the 1,000 digs and 100 aces club.