By Ryan Divish
Before the Havre Blue Pony volleyball team left for Livingston this weekend, head coach Lacy Anderson knew her team was in need of a victory or at least needed to play well in order to prepare for next weekend's Central A divisional tournament.
Anderson got both, as the Ponies knocked off the Livingston Runnin Rangers in a thrilling five-game match on Friday night, and then competed very well in the Windy City Classic on Saturday afternoon.
Anderson believes her team really came together over the course of this weekend, as well as exorcising some past demons in Livingston.
"The girls played really well all weekend," Anderson said. "We had not been very successful in Livingston in the past, so to get that win over them Friday night was a huge confidence booster."
The match against the Rangers was the final regular-season conference match for the Ponies. They won the first two games of the match 25-22 and 25-17. Havre then dropped the next two games by scores of 25-20 and 25-23. That set up a dramatic fifth game in which, Anderson said, her team really stepped up its intensity and focus in order to finish off the Rangers 17-15.
"We really took control in the first two games of that match, but they managed to come back on us despite how well we were playing," Anderson said. "The fifth game was one of those games that went back and forth all the way to the end. The girls never let up and they did a great job of fighting to the end. It was a tremendous win for us."
Anderson said Kristy Owens' determination and Jeanna McPherson's play at the net may have been the difference in that decisive game.
"Kristy Owens played huge in that game and she never let up no matter what the score was," Anderson said. "And Jeanna had a huge night at the net. She absolutely dominated."
McPherson had 10 kills, seven blocks, 13 digs and two aces. Owens added nine kills for the Ponies. Crystal Pyrak added 17 assists and Kacie Kitchens chipped in with 12 digs in the victory.
The win pushed the Ponies' conference record to 6-4, and placed them second in the North Subdivision standings.
On Saturday morning, Havre entered pool play at the Windy City Classic. The Ponies started off the morning by defeating Livingston in two games before losing a tightly contested match to Lewistown and another close match to Butte Central.
In the tournament Saturday afternoon, Havre opened by defeating Anaconda 25-17 and 25-17. That set the Ponies up with a semifinal matchup with the Lewistown Eagles. The Ponies fell to the Eagles for the fifth time this season by scores of 25-15 and 25-17.
Anderson said that despite that loss it was her team's best showing against Lewistown this season.
"The girls played pretty well in that match," Anderson said. "One of the things that hurt us against Lewistown is that they don't make many errors and we don't seem to capitalize on the mistakes they do make."
McPherson once again paced the Ponies with four kills and five blocks against the Eagles. Sara Suek added four blocks and eight digs.
Overall, Anderson considers the weekend a big success even though it may not look like one on paper.
"I definitely think we were successful this weekend because the girls played consistently well and I think they gained a lot of confidence," Anderson said. "Everybody stepped up for us and everybody contributed. Their attitudes are really positive as we head to divisionals."
The Ponies will travel to the Central A Divisional Tournament in Browning, which begins Thursday morning.