In a match pitting the top two teams in the Big South Preseason Poll, the host High Point Panthers edged Liberty, 3-1 (25-22, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23), Friday at the Millis Center.
High Point (10-5), the preseason Big South coaches' favorite, evens its conference record at 1-1. The Lady Flames, picked to finish second in the Big South, now hold a 5-8 record, including 0-1 in Big South play. Liberty is now 20-6 all-time in conference openers.
For the match, the host Panthers led, .153-.109, in hitting percentage while holding a slight, 8-7 edge in blocks. Liberty led in aces (5-3) and digs (71-68).
Katie Tylman scored a match-high 15 kills at a .480 pace for the Panthers, while Haley Barnes totaled 14 kills and 15 digs. Abby Broadstreet scored 10 kills, while Carly Jimenez dished out 28 assists and Amy Pilat collected a match-best 24 digs.
Anna Gragg and Gabrielle Vess tied for Liberty's team lead, with nine kills apiece. Casey Goodwin sent down eight kills and added four blocks. Margaret Latchford collected a season-high 19 digs, while Michelle Melendez corralled 15 digs. Anna Willey dished out a team-best 24 assists, while Sydney Morris contributed two aces and nine digs.
High Point held a sizeable, 23-16 lead in set one after a kill by Barnes. Vess then scored a winner for the Lady Flames, sparking a 5-0 Liberty rally that Vorster capped with a kill. After a High Point timeout, Tylman sent down a kill. The hosts clinched the set, 25-22, on a Liberty error.
During set one, High Point held a .150-.087 lead in hitting percentage, as both teams recorded three blocks. Barnes and Vess had four kills each in the first set.
The Lady Flames burst out of the gates during the second session, leading 22-12 after Vess scored her fourth kill. High Point scored four straight points, before Liberty closed to the finish, winning 25-17.
Liberty outhit the Panthers, .172-. 053 in set two, with the Panthers posting three blocks. Morris served up two out of Liberty's set-two aces.
After trailing set three, 16-11, the Lady Flames narrowed the gap to two at 16-14 after back-to-back kills by Payton Carter. High Point pulled away to take the set, 25-18.
The hosts hit .344 during the third stanza, compared to .138 for their guests. Three Panthers had four kills each in set three.
The fourth session was closely contested throughout. After a combo block by Kainah Williams and Hannah Morris tied the score at 17-all, the teams traded points for the next nine serves. Molly Livingston scored back-to-back kills, giving High Point a 23-21 advantage. Liberty scored on the Panthers' next two serves, before a Barnes kill ended the match.
Liberty continues on the road next week, traveling to compete at Radford on Tuesday. The matchup between the Lady Flames and Highlanders will begin at 7 p.m. at the Dedmon Center.