HPU VB Panthers Sweep Redbirds for First Win of Season

Site: Harrisonburg, Va. (Sinclair Gymnasium)
Score: High Point 3, Illinois State 0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-19)
Records: HPU 1-1, ISU 0-2
Next HPU Event: Sunday, August 29, 2021 — vs. VCU (Harrisonburg, Va.) 1 p.m.

HARRISONBURG, Va. – The High Point University volleyball team notched its first win of the season with a straight-set victory over Illinois State University as part of the JMU Invitational on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 28).

High Point was led by newcomers Dylan Maberry and Sydney Palazzolo, as both had 12 kills in the match and a hitting percentage over .300. Palazzolo also chipped in three aces and six digs while Maberry had five digs and a block assist. Maria Miggins was HPU’s primary setter in the contest and recorded 33 assists to go with five digs and five kills. Gabrielle Idlebird and Maggie Salley each recorded four blocks to lead the team defensively at the net while Jenny Wessling built on her strong performance in yesterday’s debut with a team-high 19 digs and two aces.

“I thought we competed today. Not just played, but competed,” head coach Ryan Meek said after his team’s first win of the young season. “The energy and physicality we had today were much better and our players stepped up to the challenge of playing another defending conference champion. We were quick on adjustments and played hard. We’ll need to remember these lessons as we finish our tough preseason.”

The Panthers were very efficient on offense, hitting .330 in the match with 44 kills and just 10 errors in 103 attempts. HPU was exceptionally strong in the second set, hitting an astonishing .609 in the frame with 15 kills and just one attack error in 23 attempts. Idlebird led the squad with a .583 hitting percentage in the match as she didn’t commit a single attack error in her 12 attempts that yielded seven kills.

High Point jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the first set thanks to a trio of kills from Palazzolo and held on to the lead until a 7-2 run from Illinois State gave the Redbirds their only lead of the frame at 15-14. HPU responded immediately after losing the lead and took the next six points and eight of the next nine to hold a 22-16 advantage late in the set. Idlebird and Miggins played key roles in the run, tallying a pair of kills each and Idlebird combining with Salley for a block. The Panthers got to set-point with a five-point buffer but lost the next four points, allowing ISU to make it a one-point set. That was as long as the set lasted as Palazzolo’s fifth kill of the stanza secured the set for the Purple and White.

The second set was much closer throughout, with neither team leading by more than two points until late in the frame. A total of 16 tied scores and seven lead changes happened in the set as each team had a sideout rate above 50%. The Redbirds led by one, 21-20, until HPU went on a 4-0 run to get to set-point yet again. Palazzolo played a key role in the run once more as she slammed home a kill to start the stretch and then fired off a service ace in the middle of it. ISU took one more point to stay alive but Miggins sent an attack attempt off the defender at the net to give the Panthers their second 2-0 lead in as many matches.

Illinois State controlled the beginning of the third set and built a lead as big as four at 13-9. That’s when HPU started to chip away at the deficit and pulled within one at 14-13 on a kill from Palazzolo. The Panthers then dropped the next two before going on a 7-0 run that swung the momentum in the Purple and White’s favor for good. Idlebird and Maberry combined on a block to start the run before a couple of good plays defensively at the net from the former led to a kill from the latter to pull within one again.

Idlebird teamed up with Salley on the next rally for a block to level the set and then the two joined forces again two points later to extend HPU’s lead to two points before it eventually grew to as many as four. The Redbirds countered with three in a row to cut the lead to one before High Point found the strength it needed to finish the match off in straight sets by winning each of the next five points to seal the deal.

The Panthers will look to leave Virginia above .500 after finishing the JMU Invitational tomorrow (Sunday, Aug. 29) with a matchup against unbeaten VCU at 1 p.m.