Second-Set Comeback Leads HPU Volleyball to Black Knights Invitational Title

Site: West Point, N.Y. (Gillis Field House)
Score: High Point 3, Army 0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-13)
Records: HPU 5-1, Army 4-1
Next HPU Event: Sunday, September 5 2021 — at Fairfield (Fairfield, Conn.), 1 p.m.

WEST POINT, N.Y. – A dramatic comeback in the second set propelled the High Point University volleyball team to its fifth straight win and third straight sweep with a three-set victory over Army in the Panthers’ final match of the Black Knights Invitational on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 4), to win the tournament.

“It was a great team effort today,” head coach Ryan Meek said after winning the tournament. “So many people stepped up in some tense situations and it feels good to come out of here with three wins.”

HPU trailed the tournament hosts 16-10 when the Purple and White called their final timeout in the middle frame. The Panthers came out of the timeout on a mission and answered every Army point with two of their own after that moment, going on a 16-8 run to close out the set, 26-24, and take a 2-0 lead in the match. That run gave HPU all the momentum it needed to dominate the third set, 25-13.

High Point’s defense looked like the top-five defense of the spring season, holding Army to hitting just .056 in the match, including -.107 in the third set. The Panthers reached double-digit blocks as a team for the first time this season with 10 against the Black Knights, led by seven from freshman Jackie Joyce and four from junior Maggie Salley.

Senior Gabrielle Idlebird led the Purple and White with nine kills on the day, with sophomore Dylan Maberry and Salley each contributing seven. Idlebird’s classmate Mackenzi Thornburg dished out 21 assists and was responsible for three of HPU’s five service aces in the match, leading the Panthers in both categories.

Maberry ended the tournament with 30 kills over the three matches (3.3 K/S) and had a .325 hitting percentage to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Idlebird finished with 25 kills for a .409 hitting percentage and totaled seven blocks to join Maberry on the team as well.

Army dictated the first handful of points in the opening set before the Panthers took control with a 5-0 run to hop out in front, 7-5. The Black Knights took the next two points to tie it up, but a sideout for the Panthers gave High Point the lead for good as HPU took the first frame 25-19. The Panthers used their defense to close the set out, getting back-to-back blocks from Joyce and Salley and then Joyce and Maberry to get to 25 points.

The Black Knights started the second set just as they had the first and led by as many as six in the first 12 points, 9-3. Army maintained a five or six-point lead until HPU took the timeout down 16-10 that started the comeback. High Point forced an Army timeout down 16-20 and then won the next five to take the lead, once again using defense to get the job done. The Panthers had three blocks in those five points and Joyce was involved on all three, combining forces with Salley on two of them and with Maberry for the final block. The Black Knights made it to set-point first, but HPU won the next three points to complete the comeback, getting kills from Maberry, Idlebird, and Sydney Palazzolo to take the second set of the match.

High Point’s comeback completely flipped the momentum in favor of the Purple and White and the Panthers used that to start the third set on an 8-2 run that eventually grew to 10-3. Army cut the lead down to five at 12-7 but HPU put any thoughts of a comeback to bed and closed out the set with a dominant 13-6 stretch to complete the sweep and win the Black Knights Invitational.

The Panthers will play one more match before returning to the Tar Heel State as they head over to Connecticut for a match with Fairfield on Sunday (Sept. 5) at 1 p.m. It won’t be long before HPU is back in the northeast, with High Point traveling to Pittsburgh next weekend (Sept. 10-11) for the Panther Challenge, hosted by Pitt.