HPU VB Panthers Clip Eagles in Four Sets

Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: High Point 3, Winthrop 1 (25-18, 25-12, 23-25, 25-11)
Records: HPU 9-0 (9-0 Big South), WU 5-4 (5-4 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Friday, March 12, 2021 — vs. Winthrop (Millis Center, High Point, N.C.) 2 p.m.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University volleyball team made it nine straight wins to start the season with a 3-1 victory over Winthrop University on Thursday afternoon (March 11).

While the match extended the team’s winning streak, the Panthers’ set-victory streak was snapped at 25, one away from matching the program record. The four-set victory also ended HPU’s streak of seven wins in a row in straight sets, once again one away from matching the program record.

The nine-match winning streak is tied for the fifth-longest in program history, while the nine straight in conference play is tied for the third-longest.

“Today was a great team effort,” head coach Ryan Meek said after the match. “We knew Winthrop was going to compete hard. The last couple years we haven’t been able to beat them so it was good to see us compete today. When we really followed the game plan and were detail-oriented we did really well. In the third set we got off of what we wanted to do and they took advantage of it because they’re a good team.”

High Point’s national-leading defense continued to shine on Thursday, holding Winthrop to hitting just .055 in the match. The Eagles only hit above .100 in one set and were held negative in the final set, hitting -.143. HPU currently holds opponents to hitting just .063 on the season, the best opponent hitting percentage in the country – .020 better than second place.

Madison Smith led the Panthers in kills for the third match out of the last four with 20, becoming the first Panther to record 20 kills in a single match this season. HPU’s middles also recorded double-digit kills, with Gabrielle Idlebird and Kaley Rammelsberg tallying 11 and 10, respectively, for the third time High Point has had three players with double-digit kills this year.

Idlebird and Rammelsberg were also active at the net on defense, helping the Purple and White total 12 blocks as a team, the most this season and tied for the eighth-most in a four-set match in program history. Rammelsberg was involved on seven of the blocks, a season-high and the sixth-most in a four-set match for HPU since the scoring format switched to the current 25-point method in 2008. Idlebird was third on the team in blocks with four while Maggie Salley finished in between the two with five, matching her career-high.

Four different Panthers finished with double-digit digs in the match, led by senior Abby Bottomley with 26. That’s a season-high for Bottomley and the most any High Point player has recorded this season. Joining her in double digits were Madison Smith and Maria Miggins with 12 each, and Macy Miller with 10.

High Point took an early 10-4 lead in the first set and maintained a lead of at least four points until Winthrop got back-to-back points to make it 14-11. The Panthers responded with a 7-3 run before the Eagles rattled off four straight to make it 21-18. That’s as close as the visitors got in the first set as HPU won the next four points to take the opening set, 25-18.

The Purple and White took the first four points of the second set thanks to a pair of kills each from Smith and Idlebird but Winthrop battled and had It at a two-point set at 9-7 before High Point blew it wide open. The Panthers went on an 11-1 after that, including the next seven, capped off by back-to-back aces from Miggins and one from Miller after the Winthrop point to make it 20-8. The Eagles only mustered four more points in the frame and a trio of kills from Smith along with one from Sopheea Mink and an error by Winthrop gave HPU the second set, 25-12.

It was a battle throughout the third set, with the score tied 10 different times and changing hands five times. Winthrop led early on, with High Point finally taking control since the first point after three straight to make it 10-8. The Purple and White tacked on three more in a row after an Eagle point to make it 13-9, the Panthers’ largest lead of the set. High Point won the race to 20, 20-17, and looked like it would keep the consecutive sets won streak alive but Winthrop surged from down three to take the lead at 21-20 with four straight. HPU didn’t take the lead again, tying things up three times, finally at 23-23, before the Eagles got the final two points they needed to stay alive, 25-23.

High Point put any thoughts of a Winthrop comeback victory to bed in the fourth set, locking the Eagles down with HPU’s best defensive performance of the match. The Purple and White allowed just six kills on 35 attempts with 11 errors to force Winthrop to hit negative. It was 6-5 HPU early on and then the Panthers went on a 14-3 stretch that made it clear who the winner of the match would be, giving High Point another 20-8 lead. This time Winthrop only got three more points, with the 10th kills of the match from Rammelsberg putting a bow on the win.

The Panthers and Eagles will meet at the Millis Center again tomorrow (March 12) with first serve scheduled for 2 p.m.