HPU Volleyball Panthers Fall to Purdue in NCAA Tournament Second Round

Site: Omaha, Neb. (CHI Health Center)
Score: Purdue 3, High Point 0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-19)
Records: PUR 15-6 (14-6 Big Ten), HPU 17-1 (16-0 Big South)

OMAHA, Neb. – The High Point University volleyball team’s historic run came to a close in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament with a straight-sets loss to No. 7-ranked Purdue University Thursday afternoon (April 15).

With yesterday’s win over UCF, the Panthers became just the second team in HPU Athletics history to even win an NCAA Tournament contest and advance to the second round, joining the 2017 women’s lacrosse team. It was also the first time a Big South volleyball program advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in the league’s 35-year history of sponsoring the sport.

High Point looked like it might take the first set and repeat what happened when the teams met for the first time in 2017 when HPU arrived at set-point, 24-18. Purdue won the next eight points to storm back and take the set in what proved to be the turning point of the match as the Panthers didn’t lead, or even tie the match up, at any point in the final two sets.

“I thought we battled hard all match,” head coach Ryan Meek said after the season-ending loss. “I don’t know what would have happened but I don’t feel like we put our best foot forward. I feel like the effort was there, but I just felt like we weren’t as detail-oriented and didn’t execute as well as we wanted to on some things. Part of that is Purdue is really good and pushed us to make some adjustments we didn’t want to make and part of that is we didn’t have much prep time. We spent most of our time getting ready for UCF and last night was a late night for the coaching staff trying to figure out Purdue. Honestly, we just didn’t have an answer for Caitlyn Newton. That was kind of the end-all-be-all right there.”

The loss marks the end of High Point’s season-long winning streak at 17 matches – the second-longest in HPU’s Division I history and just two shy of matching the record of 19 from the 2017 season. The Panthers won nine matches away from the Millis Center to start the season before falling to Purdue, setting a program record for consecutive wins on the road.

HPU’s defense still had a strong performance, holding Purdue to hitting .212 in the match. It was only the third time this season High Point has allowed an opponent to hit over .200 and was the lowest hitting percentage the Boilermakers have had in a victory all year long. The Purple and White end the season with an opponent’s hitting percentage of .103, currently the fifth-best in the nation.

Abby Bottomley and Gabrielle Idlebird were the leaders defensively for the Panthers, with Bottomley totaling 18 digs and Idlebird notching four blocks. The senior Bottomley now has 2,158 digs in her career for second on HPU’s Division I leaderboard and her average of 5.35 is the best in team history – the only mark of 5.00 digs per set or better in any player’s career for High Point.

Annie Sullivan led the team in kills for the second match in a row and 10th time this season with nine against the Boilermakers. Mackenzi Thornburg and Maria Miggins each tallied double-digit assists with 16 and 13, respectively, while Megan Kratzer served up HPU’s only ace of the match.

The teams traded sideouts for the first six points of the match before Purdue went on an 8-2 run to take a 10-5 lead. High Point’s energy remained high and sparked an 11-2 run directly after Purdue’s to flip the lead to the Purple and White at 16-12. Sideouts were traded again for the next five before the Boilermakers won three in a row to pull within one, 18-17. HPU then took six of the next seven to get to set-point, with six chances to take the opening set. Purdue bent but didn’t break and stormed back and won the next eight points to win the set 26-24 and take the wind out of High Point’s sails.

Purdue took the first two points of the second set and led 5-1 early, never losing the lead the rest of the way. High Point only got as close as three after that point in the second set, with the last time happening at 11-8. The Boilermakers opened a 10-point lead at 22-12 and High Point fought back with the next four but couldn’t cut into the deficit anymore, falling 25-18 in the set. High Point fared better in the third set and kept it within three points for about half of the set. The Panthers only trailed by two at 13-11 before Purdue went on a 6-1 run to take a seven-point lead that never dipped below five again, taking the final set 25-19 for the sweep.

High Point will have a few active streaks when the Panthers return to action in the fall, with the eight home wins this season currently sitting tied for the third-longest home winning streak in program history and just four away from matching the program record of 12 that spanned across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. All eight wins were also conference wins, which is also the third-longest Big South home winning streak in program history.

HPU also won the eight conference matches away from home this season, which combined with the four in a row won at the end of last season give the Purple and White a streak of 12 consecutive conference matches won on the road, which is the second-longest in program history and just one away from matching the record. The 16 total Big South wins in a row this season make the second-longest conference winning streak in program history, four away from matching the record of 20 that set over three seasons from 2016-18.