By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
Homecoming and rivalries are not just reserved for football. In fact, with the season switch both things are a big part of high school volleyball. The pageantry of homecoming and the intensity of a longstanding rivalry will be factors for Saturday night's volleyball matchup between the Havre Blue Ponies and Chinook Sugarbeeters at the Havre High gymnasium.
Both teams enter Saturday's homecoming game playing some of the best volleyball on the Hi-Line.
Chinook is 14-0 and 2-0 in District 2-B play after fairly easy victories over Plentywood and Poplar last weekend, while the Ponies come in with an impressive 6-3 record and a perfect 3-0 mark in Central A conference play.
Two of Havre's three losses have come at the hands of two of Class AA's better teams last weekend at the Electric City Invitational in Great Falls. While the Ponies' other loss came two weeks ago to conference nemesis Lewistown at the Central A Volleyball extravaganza in Belgrade.
However, with the way each team is playing as of late, as well as the aforementioned rivalry, both head coaches and teams are looking forward to the match.
"We are very excited because it is homecoming and Chinook is one of our big rivals," said Havre High head coach Bill Huebsch. "Chinook is playing very well right now and they are undefeated. But we also feel like we are playing good volleyball as well, so I think both sides will really be up for this."
Chinook head coach Jay Eslick also has been looking forward to the matchup with the Class A Ponies for a myriad of reasons.
"We always look forward to playing Havre," Eslick said. "They are a quality opponent and a Class A power. It is always challenging to step up against that good of competition."
The two teams each have a little score to settle as well. The 21-mile rivals split the season series in 2002 ,each winning on their home court. Huebsch admitted that even though this is not a conference match, there will be a lot at stake when the Beeters and Ponies take the floor.
"One of our goals this season is to not lose at home," Huebsch said. "So far we have done that and we certainly don't want to lose to Chinook at home on homecoming. I think the girls will be very focused and ready to play on Saturday night."
Said Eslick: "Havre has been playing really well thus far and this will be a big challenge for us. But we have to go into the match with the mindset that we can win each and every time out. It will be a very tough task to beat them on their home floor. But, I think that if we take care of the little things that we have tried to get better at, and if we are aggressive and not intimidated, we will have a chance to stay with them."
The Beeters are led by a solid group of veteran players. Chinook returned six starters from a 2002 team that went 17-3 overall and did not lose a match in District 2B play. Hitters Shaylan Haugen, Whitney Lybeck, Kelsey Crampton and Kayla Erskine lead the way for a Beeter team that Huebsch said could be very dangerous.
"I think we match up with Chinook a little better than some of the teams we have been facing the last couple of weeks," Huebsch said. "But they have a lot of solid players and Kelsey Crampton and Kayla Erskine do give them some good size at the net."
"We need to just take advantage of the things we have been doing well," Huebsch added. "Hopefully, some of the situations that we have been in against the AA schools the last couple of weeks will pay off for the kids. They should play well in those situations against Chinook. But one thing is certain, it should be a very good and very close match because both teams are playing so well coming in."
The match between the Beeters and Ponies will get underway at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night at the Havre High School gymnasium.