Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: High Point 3, Gardner-Webb 0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-13)
Records: HPU 16-0 (16-0 Big South), GWU 4-12 (4-12 Big South)
Next HPU Event: — NCAA Tournament First Round (Omaha, Neb.)
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University volleyball team completed its perfect regular season with a three-set victory over Gardner-Webb University Friday afternoon (April 2).
It’s just the second time the Panthers have gone undefeated in conference play, the first coming in 2017 when the Purple and White matched this year’s record at 16-0. HPU was presented with the Big South Championship trophy after the match, which it had already secured after last week’s sweep of Campbell. This makes three regular-season championships in the last four years for High Point and four trips to the NCAA Tournament after securing the Big South’s automatic bid.
HPU will enter the NCAA Tournament on the second-longest active winning streak in the country, behind only Western Kentucky. The Panthers are also one of just six undefeated teams entering the tournament along with the Hilltoppers, Wisconsin, UNLV, Jackson State, and Towson – with Towson still scheduled to play in the CAA Championship on Saturday (April 3).
“Finishing 16-0 is special anytime but especially in a year like this,” head coach Ryan Meek said as his team was cutting down the net. “There have been so many sacrifices made from players and staff to accomplish this that makes it that much sweeter. 16-0 with 11 sweeps reflects the consistency with which we’ve approached every match this year. Now we’re excited to get to Omaha and to try and make history in the NCAA Tournament.”
High Point’s offense was firing on all cylinders yet again, finishing the match with a .374 hitting percentage, just .004 behind last night’s, but with 15 more kills. HPU has now hit over .300 in nine of its 16 matches and in each of its last three, the second time this season that the Purple and White have strung together three matches over .300 in a row.
Annie Sullivan was a key cog for the Panthers offensively, leading the team with 18 kills for a three-set season-high. She hit .500 in the match as well, the second time this season she’s hit .500 or better with at least 10 attacks.
Not to be outdone, High Point’s defense had another strong performance, holding Gardner-Webb to hitting just .063 in the entire match and never above .125 in any set. It’s the third match in a row that HPU’s defense has held an opponent under .100 and the 11th such match of the year. The Panthers’ defense now sits at .090 for opponent’s hitting percentage this season, the fourth-best mark in the country.
Abby Bottomley had a strong performance on the backline for HPU, tallying 19 digs in the match to end the regular season with 2,104 in her career – the second-most in program history and the second-most among active Division I players. Gabrielle Idlebird led the team in blocks for the second straight match, picking up three on Friday including one by herself.
HPU never trailed in the first set and only let Gardner-Webb tie it up once at 6-6. High Point answered with three straight points to take the lead and take it for good in the opener, with all three points coming on kills from Kaley Rammelsberg. The Panthers weren’t able to pull away just yet as GWU made it a one-point affair multiple times before four in a row created some separation to make it 19-13. The teams traded sideouts after that before the Purple and White took two in a row and three out of four to finish the set off, with the final point coming courtesy of a Sopheea Mink kill.
Similar to yesterday’s match, Gardner-Webb had the upper hand early in the second set, winning the first seven points of the set – picking up three of its four service aces during the run. High Point fought back and was able to tie it up with a 9-2 run, with Sullivan and Idlebird each contributing multiple kills and the latter notching her solo block.
The run didn’t stop there as HPU took the next four points, two of them coming on kills from Mink, to lead 13-10. A five-point run later in the set sparked by a trio of kills from Sullivan fully flipped momentum over to the Panthers as High Point only gave up three more points after that run on the way to taking the set 25-16.
High Point flipped the script in the third set, taking the first six points of the frame but the Runnin’ Bulldogs then rattled off five straight to come within one. That was as close as the visitors got as another 4-0 stretch for the Purple and White extended their lead, which never shrunk below three points again. It was all Panthers late in the set as HPU secured the match with the last eight points in a row on Bottomley’s serve, picking up High Point’s only service ace of the day in the process.
HPU will find out who and when they will play in Omaha, Neb. for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday (April 4) at 4 p.m. during the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Selection Show.