Dominant Third Set Propels HPU Volleyball Panthers to Victory

Site: Clinton, S.C. (Templeton Center)
Score: High Point 3, Presbyterian 1 (25-17, 20-25, 25-10, 25-16)
Records: HPU 1-0 (1-0 Big South), PC 0-1 (0-1 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Friday, February 5, 2021 — at Presbyterian (Clinton, S.C.) 5 p.m.

CLINTON, S.C. – Playing in the first volleyball match of the 2020-21 Big South campaign, High Point University started the season off on the right foot with a four-set victory over Presbyterian College Thursday evening (Feb. 4).

High Point dominated the second half of the match, hitting .609 in the third set and .438 in the fourth set to finish the match with a hitting percentage of .427, the third-highest in a single match since the scoring format switched to the current 25-point style.

“I think first it’s important to note just how grateful we are as a program to the Big South Conference, High Point University administration, and everyone who helped make this season possible,” head coach Ryan Meek said after his team’s season opener. “It’s been over 400 days since we played a competitive match and I could tell we were nervous to start. Once we settled in there wasn’t much more I could’ve asked of our team. We limited errors, played great team defense, and got into a rhythm on offense and defense. Everyone played for each other and that’s all we can do. I look forward to getting back on the court and competing again tomorrow.”

Three Panthers ended the night with double-digit kills, led by sophomore Annie Sullivan with 16. Joining her in double digits were classmate Maria Miggins and Kaley Rammelsberg, each with 10 kills. HPU registered seven blocks as a team, with junior Gabrielle Idlebird involved on five of them, including a solo block.

Senior libero Abby Bottomley picked up right where she left off from last year on the back end, recording 22 digs in the match. The setting duties were split between Miggins and Mackenzi Thornburg, with Miggins registering 26 for the double-double and Thornburg right behind her with 24.

High Point took a quick 5-2 lead but the hosts fought back to tie it at nine and the score remained tight until a Panther scoring run six points later. Presbyterian had taken a two-point lead at 13-11 but HPU rattled off a 10-3 run, with service aces from Miggins and sophomore Sarah Malone complimented by multiple kills from Sullivan and Maggie Salley. PC scored two straight to make it a five-point set affair at 22-17 but a kill from Rammelsberg and two from Miggins gave the Purple and White the first set of the season.

Presbyterian leveled the score of the match in the second set, allowing HPU to lead just once in the set – and early at that at 2-1. The teams traded points until the Blue Hose built a five-point lead that forced the Panthers to take a timeout down 11-6. The timeout worked initially as High Point scored three straight to get within two but PC responded with four consecutive points, including back-to-back aces to push the lead to six.

HPU was able to pull within one at 18-17 but couldn’t get over the hill and dropped the set by five, 25-20. The second set was High Point’s worst in the match with the Panthers totaling just 12 kills with five errors on 26 attacks for a .269 mark. That was still more than double Presbyterian’s mark of .111 in the set and the hosts only managed nine kills in the set but racked up seven of its nine kills in the second frame.

The Panthers were determined not to let the second set get them down and came out on fire in the third set with a quick 9-2 lead. The lead continued to expand at a rapid pace throughout the set, with the hosts only able to score multiple points in a row twice over the whole stanza.

HPU picked apart the Presbyterian defense with precision in the third, racking up 14 kills on 23 offerings with zero attack errors committed. The 14 kills coupled with four service aces – three from Miggins and one from Madison Smith – and four blocks as part of a defensive effort that held PC to hit -.034, helped the Purple and White cruise to a dominating 25-10 victory in the set.

High Point kept the gas on in the fourth set, recording a match-high 17 kills in the final set to finish things off, trailing in the frame only after losing the opening point. The Panthers tried to pull away early but Presbyterian was able to knot things up at nine, which didn’t last very long.

HPU rattled off four straight after the tie, capped off by an ace from Macy Miller that forced the Blue Hose to take a timeout. PC won the point coming out of the timeout to get within three but only came that close once more as the Purple and White pulled away to take the set by nine, 25-16, to secure the match.

The Panthers and Presbyterian will square off again tomorrow (Feb. 5) at 5 p.m. to complete the season series before HPU heads into its bye week next week. High Point is back in action after the Presbyterian series on the road again at UNC Asheville on Feb. 18-19.