By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Chinook Sugarbeeters were favored to capture a District 2B regular season volleyball title, and two weeks ago they did that.
Last weekend, the Beeters were heavy favorites to win the District 2B tournament in Glasgow, and they did just that.
And once again, the Beeters are favored to capture the North-East B divisional volleyball tournament, which gets under way today in Malta.
The Beeters, who open divisional play this afternoon with a matchup against the Fairfield Eagles, are getting used to playing the favorite role, according to veteran head coach Jay Eslick.
"We have been in that position all season," Eslick said. "This weekend is no different and I guess we would rather be expected to win than having people count us out. But we also know that we have to go out and play like a team that is expected to go to the state tournament. If we don't, things will be very tough because this is a very deep field."
The Beeters are coming into Malta having had to knocked off a very pesky Glasgow team twice en route to the District 2B title. The Scotties and Malta along with Wolf Point make up the rest of the field from the 2B. Choteau, Shelby, Fairfield and Simms qualified from the District 1B tournament.
Aside from the teams that Chinook has seen at the district tourney, Eslick said that Choteau and Simms will be two of the teams that should make some serious noise in Malta.
"Both Choteau and Simms have been ranked all season long so they are two of the better teams in this tournament," Eslick said. "But Malta is also very good and I think the hottest team in the tournament has to be Glasgow. They gave us two very tough matches last week and they are just playing really well right now."
Although there is a deep field in Malta, the Beeters are still the team to beat as play gets under way this afternoon, despite the fact that Choteau is the defending divisional champion. If Chinook is to move on to the state tournament, Eslick said a few things will have to fall into place.
"Last week, I thought we really picked up our intensity level and played with a real sense of urgency," Eslick said. "As long as we maintain that level of focus and we do the things that have made us successful all season, we should be right there at the end."
The main thing that Chinook has done all season long is dominate the net. The Beeters boast one of the most solid front lines in the state with the likes of Whitney Lybeck, Georgia Barber, Kelsey Crampton and Kayla Erskine.
Other first-round matches today will include Choteau taking on Wolf Point, Shelby against Glasgow and the host Malta M-Ettes against the Simms Tigers.
The semifinals are set for Friday night, and the championship round is scheduled to get under way Saturday afternoon. The top three teams from the divisional tournament will advance to the Class B state tournament next weekend in Billings.