Site: Greensboro, N.C. (Corbett Sports Center)
Score: High Point 3, North Carolina A&T 1 (25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 25-13)
Records: HPU 11-5 (3-0 Big South), N.C. A&T 9-6 (1-2 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Friday, October 1, 2021 — at Radford (Radford, Va.), 6 p.m.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Hitting .300 or better in three of the four sets, the High Point University volleyball team remained unbeaten in conference play with a four-set victory over North Carolina A&T State University Tuesday evening (Sept. 28) in the first-ever Big South contest between the two schools.
The win extends HPU’s program-record Big South winning streak in road matches to 15 straight and its overall conference winning streak to 19, one shy of matching the program benchmark of 20. The Panthers’ current record of 20 stands as the third-longest streak in Big South history, one behind Radford’s 21 consecutive matches from 2000-2002, and 31 behind Winthrop’s conference record of 51 straight Big South victories that spanned parts of five seasons from 2003-2007. The Purple and White’s victory moved HPU’s current streak to fourth place, breaking the tie with Coastal Carolina from the final two seasons the Chanticleers were in the Big South.
High Point hit .324 in the opening set and committed just two attacking errors in the second for a .455 hitting percentage in the frame. The third set was rougher as HPU only hit .088 and lost the set but the Panthers rebounded by hitting .313 in the final stanza for a .294 hitting percentage in the match. The Aggies hit over .200 in three of the four sets and had a match-high of .300 in the second frame, finishing with a .181 hitting percentage in the contest.
“Not every match in a season is going to be a piece of art and today was a struggle,” head coach Ryan Meek said after the win. “A&T matched our energy and athleticism and made some of the things we like to do difficult. I thought Jenny Wessling was a rock for us today in serve receive and I thought everyone else cycled through making plays for us. If you look at per-set stats, someone different carried us every set. That’s why you get talent and that’s when we’re at our best – when everyone is contributing. I’ll take any win on the road and that Is a tough venue to play in and a great home court. I’m proud of our girls for their response in the fourth set and coming out of there with a win.”
Gabrielle Idlebird had her most efficient outing of the season and second-best of her career after hitting .692 in the match with nine kills on 13 attempts. A total of four Panthers finished above her with double-digit kills, the second time this season HPU has had four players in double-digits. Dylan Maberry led the team with 16 for her fourth match of at least 15 kills. Sydney Palazzolo chipped in 11 kills while Madison Smith and Maggie Salley were right behind Palazzolo with 10 each.
Palazzolo also pitched in 15 digs in the match for her fifth double-double of the season. Three members of the Purple and White reached double digits in digs, led by freshman libero Wessling with 16 for her team-leading 13th match with at least 10. Connelly Renfrow was the other Panther to reach double digits and ended with 10. Idlebird and Jackie Joyce were HPU’s leaders defending the net, each ending the night with three blocks.
High Point had a multitude of Panthers record an assist in the match, with a total of six credited for a helper. The majority of the setting duty was done by Mackenzi Thornburg and Maria Miggins, finishing with 22 and 21 assists, respectively. It’s the ninth time Thornburg has had at least 20 assists and the second such time for Miggins.
Thornburg, Palazzolo, and Wessling each served up two aces in the match as well while Miggins, Idlebird, and Renfrow each had one to give the Panthers nine on the day and 26 over the last three matches combined.
A&T won the first point of the match but High Point won six of the next seven and didn’t trail again. The Aggies tied it up later at 7-7 but only got as close as one point for the rest of the frame. It was a one-point affair at 21-20 before the Panthers picked up the sideout and won four of the next five to take the first set, 25-21.
A large run late in the second set was the difference-maker for High Point to take a 2-0 lead as the Purple and White found themselves in a hole early. This time it was A&T taking a 6-2 lead and it grew to as many as five at 12-7. HPU clawed back to trail by only one but a 4-1 run from the Aggies pushed their lead back to four points, 17-13. That was when the switch flipped for the Panthers as High Point tore through the hosts after that point, ending the set on a 12-1 that featured five kills from Palazzolo to race from behind and take the frame 25-18 for the 2-0 advantage.
HPU had another large run to come from behind in the third set, going from trailing 12-9 to leading 17-13 after an 8-1 stretch. The lead didn’t last as A&T got hot after that and retook the lead with its own 8-2 run to make it 21-19. High Point won the next point to pull within one but couldn’t level the score again as the Aggies took the frame 25-21 to force a fourth set.
The Panthers only led by one at 8-7 in the final frame before the flood gates opened with a 6-0 run that featured both of Wessling’s aces on back-to-back points. Another 5-0 saw the Purple and White double up A&T at 20-10 and a 4-1 run capped off by Salley’s 10th kill sealed the deal.
High Point heads north to Radford for a single match with the Highlanders on Friday (Oct. 1) before finally hosting the first matches of the season in the Millis Center the following weekend when Campbell and Hampton come to town.