By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
There wasn't a shortage of intensity on Saturday night at the Havre High gymnasium. There never is when Havre and Chinook meet in any sport. But the shrieks and screams alone were enough to tell people that this wasn't just another volleyball game.
In a game where momentum swings came as often as the shrieks, the Ponies kept it swinging their way long enough to defeat the Chinook Sugarbeeters 25-22, 25-11, 20-25, 25-21, in non-conference action.
"It was a lot of fun," said Havre High head coach Bill Huebsch. "Both teams were ready to play tonight and it showed."
In game one, leads - when there were leads - were never more than four points on any occasion as both teams traded shot for shot.
Chinook looked to be pulling away as they grabbed a 22-19 lead on a Shaylan Haugen kill. However, Havre scrapped back into the match on kills by Alicia Overcast and Kristi Owens. Chinook also hurt itself with a service error and a pair of serve-receive errors which allowed Havre to come back and take game one.
As close as game one was, game two was anything but. Havre's execution was solid while the Beeters' mistakes hurt them on several occasions.
"Our coverage, ball handling and serve-receive broke down," said Chinook head coach Jay Eslick. "It's disappointing because we lost and we did some things we wish could've done better."
Said Huebsch: "The first two games we were very fired up. You could see it in their eyes before the game, they were very focused on what we needed to do."
Even with things going wrong, the Beeters weren't unbeaten going into Saturday night without reason. Down two games, Chinook fought and scrapped in game three to take a big lead early.
"Our kids are scrappy," Eslick said. "And they certainly didn't want to lose in that great atmosphere."
While Chinook was scrapping, the Ponies were letting up and the focus that carried them through the first two games began to wane.
"We definitely lost focus in the third game," Huebsch said. "We warned them about it and I tell them all the time that I've coached a lot of teams who were up two games and lost in five."
The mistakes that hurt Chinook in games one and two were starting to hurt the Ponies.
"Our passing stopped and we didn't play very good defense," Huebsch said. "Give Chinook credit, they're a very good team and they capitalized on our mistakes."
Chinook rode a tidal wave of momentum and emotion to win game three as a trio of seniors - Haugen, Kelsey Crampton and Kayla Erskine - started to control the net.
"This is the kind of game you want every night," Eslick said. "It puts us in a place that we haven't been this season."
It looked as though that momentum would carry Chinook to victory in game four. The Beeters jumped out early, grabbing a six-point lead on kills from Erskine and a pair of blocks from Whitney Lybeck.
Chinook continued to roll as Huebsch called a timeout early in the game trying to get his team refocused.
Down 17-12, Havre regained a bunch of momentum on one play - one very long play. An innocent rally started to grow longer, and a little longer and a little longer with bodies diving on the floor and tough one-handed saves keeping it alive.
Havre finally won the rally as Kristin Evanson's soft shot across the net found the floor and a packed HHS gymnasium erupted.
"That rally was incredible," Huebsch said. "I think each team had it like ten times. We were in a fog for game three and part of game four but it kind of lifted after that."
That one play re-energized Havre. The Ponies' hitters, especially Overcast and Owens, reasserted themselves.
Havre crawled back into the game behind the serving of Overcast. With the Ponies trailing 21-19, the junior outside hitter served the final six points to secure the game and match.
"Those last couple points are the hardest," Huebsch said. "Alicia really stepped up and had a good night."
Overcast finished with a game-high 15 kills, 10 digs and a pair of aces. Owens had 13 kills, while Alexa Lipp dished out 39 assists.
Chinook got a combined 13 kills from Haugen and Erskine, while Monica Thackeray had a game-high 22 digs. Lybeck added four kills, 12 digs and two blocks.
While Chinook's record is no longer unblemished at 14-1, the match will still help the Beeters in the long run.
"It's a great atmosphere to play in," Eslick said. "It's the same type of atmosphere that you see in the state and divisional tournaments. It's good for us to play good teams and Havre has a good team; they're going to do well this year."
Said Huebsch: "This is when game's are fun. This is why you play volleyball is for games like this."
There definitely could be a game like this in a month when the two teams meet again.
"Kids are kids, I am sure they'll be looking forward to it," Eslick said. "I know I will be looking forward to playing on Oct. 14 at 7:30 in Chinook because it will let us see how far we've come from now."
Havre def. Chinook
25-22, 25-11, 20-25, 25-21
HAVRE - Kills 50 (Alicia Overcast 15, Kristi Owens 13), Assists 44 (Alexa Lipp 39), Aces 8 (Lipp 3, Overcast 2), Digs 47 (Kelsey Evans 10, Overcast 10), Blocks 6 (Kristen Evanson 2).
CHINOOK - Kills 24 (Shaylan Haugen 7), Assists 18 (Tiffany Cuerth 10), Aces 6 (Crystal Roseberry 2, Janice Wass 2), Digs 74 (Monica Thackeray 22), Blocks 4 (Whitney Lybeck 2).