By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High volleyball team has made great strides in 2003, but the Ponies took perhaps their biggest step forward in two years as they earned a dramatic split at a triangular meet with Livingston and Lewistown Saturday afternoon at the Fergus High Gymnasium.
The Blue Ponies opened the day by picking up a three-game win over the Livingston Runnin' Rangers. Havre returned to the floor later in the day and played perhaps one of the best matches a Pony team has played in several seasons, taking the host Eagles to five games before falling in the decisive game.
"Lewistown has been undefeated in conference play over the last two seasons and I can't remember the last time Havre even took a game from them," said Havre High head coach Bill Huebsch. "So for us to play them as close as we did and take them to five games on their home floor, I just couldn't be more pleased.
"I told the girls in the locker room after the match that even though we lost, I was just so proud of the way they played and their effort. Even though it was still a loss, this is definitely a step forward for this team, because we just took one of the top three teams in the state right down to the end," Huebsch added.
Not only did the Ponies take the vaunted Eagles to five games, but they did it when it looked like the match was going to be the same old Havre-Lewistown story.
The Eagles captured the first two games by scores 25-20 and 25-21. The third game was knotted at 19 when the Ponies suddenly found a groove that would propel them to wins in the next two games by scores of 25-22 and 25-22. Lewistown rallied to win game five 15-4.
"That is a huge boost for this team, for them to be able to come back from two games down like we did," Huebsch said "The girls played as well as they have played all season in the third and fourth games. We got on a roll. It was a tremendous match.
"I was also really pleased with the play we got from some kids that were put into some tough situations against Lewistown," Huebsch added. "Kacy Herron, Keelie Solomon and Ashley Hagen all came into that match and did an outstanding job for us. They were a big part of why we were able to have success in that match."
Senior Alicia Overcast also had another solid match for the Ponies, racking up 11 kills, 18 digs and three aces. Kristi Owens also chipped in with 11 kills for the Ponies.
Before Havre took Lewistown to the brink of an unthinkable conference defeat, the Ponies made short work of the Livingston Rangers. The Ponies downed Livingston by scores of 25-22, 25-15, and 25-22. The win assured the Ponies of at least a split in the two pivotal conference matches.
"We knew we had to have the one against Livingston for sure," Huebsch said. "We started out a little slow, but the girls turned it up and played really well in the second and third games. We were able to finish them off. It was a nice win."
Kelsey Smith and Kristi Owens led the way for the Ponies with seven and six kills, respectively. Kelsey Evans also added seven digs and three aces. Alexa Lipp totaled 19 assists and added 34 more in the match against Lewistown.
"This was another very important weekend in the process of us getting better," Huebsch said. "To see how much we have improved just since the Central A Extravaganza is very encouraging, and we have a month left in the season to keep getting better. I think we made another strong statement this weekend."
The Ponies (8-5, 4-1) return home on Saturday afternoon. They will host both the Great Falls High Bison and CMR Rustlers beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Havre High Gymnasium.
Havre def. Livingston
25-22, 25-15, 25-22
Havre - Kills 23 (Kelsey Smith 7, Kristi Owens 6), Blocks 2 (Kristin Evanson 1), Assists 19 (Alexa Lipp 19), Digs 25 (Kelsey Evans 7, Brittany Vandersloot 5), Aces 9 (Keelie Solomon 5, Kelsey Evans 3).
Livingston - Kills 23 (Kaitlin Kaiser 6) Blocks 3 (Shannon Bosley 2), Assists 18 (Ashton Fink 17), Digs 17 (Kaitlin Kaiser 5), Aces 2 (Leah Boehler 1, Caitlin Deen 5).
Lewistown def. Havre
25-20, 25-21, 22-25, 22-25, 15-4.
Havre - Kills 38 (Alicia Overcast 11, Kristi Owens 11), Blocks 6 (Kelsey Smith 3, Ashley Hagen 2), Assists 34 (Alexa Lipp 34), Digs 64 (Alicia Overcast 18, Brittany Vandersloot 13), Aces 5 (Alicia Overcast 3).
Lewistown - Kills (Lesly Richter 19, Kayla Horacek 8, Claire Slagel 8), Blocks 10 (Lesly Richter 3), Assists 45 (Loren Tognetti 42), Digs 75 (Shaylynn Conroy 18, Alira Caprenter 13), Aces 10 (Shaylynn Conroy 4).