Apr. 15—OMAHA, Neb. — High Point University’s volleyball team did something Wednesday that has never been done before.
The Panthers outlasted Central Florida for a five-set first-round victory that was the first ever for the program in the NCAA tournament.
HPU lost the first set 22-25, won the second 25-19 and the third 25-21, lost the fourth 23-25 and prevailed 15-11 in the fifth. Because of COVID-19, all 48 teams are playing at the CHI Health Center arena.
Previously, the Panthers had won just one set in four NCAA tournament matches, that over Purdue in 2017.
The Panthers (17-0) play No. 7 seed Boilermakers in the second round today at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. UCF finishes 16-2.
Annie Sullivan led HPU with 17 kills. Madison Smith had 15 and Gabrielle Idlebird 11.
Mackenzi Thornburg and Maria Miggins combined for 58 of the Panthers’ 64 assists, with Thornburg having 33 and Miggins 25.
Defensive specialist Abby Bottomley scooped 36 digs. Macy Miller had 26 and Miggins 14.
Kaley Rammelsberg came through with nine blocks and Idlebird had five.
HPU had a .200 hitting percentage while holding UCF to .157.
The Panthers trailed early in the deciding set but went ahead for good at 8-7. That was the start of four straight points that grew to six of seven, a run that put HPU up 13-8. UCF then won two points but a Sullivan kill brought match point, and after the Knights won a point, another Sullivan kill put HPU through to the next round.
UCF roared off to a 7-1 lead in the first set. HPU clawed back to tie four times late, the last at 22-22, then surrendered three points to fall one set down.
HPU stayed in front for most of the second set, leading by as much as 20-13. Trailing 21-19 in the third set, the Panthers won six straight points to close it out. Sullivan started the comeback with a kill and three UCF errors put HPU up 23-21, setting the stage for a kill by Idlebird and then one by Smith on match point.
In the fourth set, HPU led as late as 19-18. UCF made a late surge this time, scoring six straight points to force match point. HPU managed to win four points before UCF won the set on a kill.