By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
Anytime you can win two out of three Central A Conference volleyball matches in a given weekend, you have to consider it a success.
However, after three matches this weekend, the Havre Blue Ponies were left with a frustrated feeling, according to head coach Bill Huebsch.
The Ponies were feeling somewhat down after their triangular meet with Browning and Lewistown because the Ponies could not find a way to end several years of torture at the hands of the top-ranked Lewistown Eagles.
The Blue Ponies defeated Browning twice on the weekend, but fell to the Eagles Saturday afternoon in four games.
"It is very frustrating right now because we had a good chance against Lewistown again," Huebsch said. "We started off slow and then came back on them. I thought we had all the momentum in the world, but costly mistakes came into play and we just couldn't find a way to get past them."
After dispatching Browning on their home floor Friday night, the Blue Ponies returned home for an afternoon match with the vaunted Eagles.
Havre dropped the opening game of the match 25-19 and fell behind by as much as seven points in game two. Trailing by a score of 20-15, the Blue Ponies mounted an improbable comeback led by their two senior hitters.
Alicia Overcast started what would be a 9-1 run with an ace and a kill while Kristi Owens added three kills in the middle of the run. By the time Havre had reeled off nine straight points, the Ponies had reached game point at 24-21. Kelsey Smith finished the game off with an emphatic smash down the middle of the court.
"The comeback we had in the second game showed me just how far we have come," Huebsch said. "We took them to five games on their home floor and judging by how we played in the middle of the match on Saturday, I saw a lot of improvement."
The momentum the Ponies built coming back in game two carried over into the third game. Havre went on several five-point scoring runs throughout the game and was in an ideal situation leading 20-15.
But the Eagles were not going to go away. They rallied behind star hitters Shaylynn Conroy and Lesly Richter. The Eagles ripped off five straight points to take a brief one-point lead. However, the Ponies battled throughout the latter part of the game. With the game tied at 24 apiece, Overcast committed a crucial service error and the Eagles took the game, 26-24.
Havre could not overcome the disappointment of the third game as the Eagles pounded the Ponies 25-15 in the match's decisive game.
In all, the Ponies commited a costly 13 service errors and gave up 12 aces. Serve-receive was again Havre's undoing, according to Huebsch.
"That was definitely the difference in the match," Huebsch said. "You just cannot give up that many free points against a team like Lewistown and they took advantage of it."
Richter led the way for the Eagles with a game-high 19 kills while Conroy had a fine all-around match. She totaled 13 kills, 22 digs and a game-high four aces. Owens led the way for the Ponies with 14 kills while Overcast added 11. She also had 22 digs.
"It is definitely frustrating because we played them as tough as anybody in Class A has twice now," Huebsch said. "But the mistakes in game three just killed us and it took the wind out of our sails and we could never recover."
But the Ponies did manage to recover in time to knock off the struggling Browning Indians for the second time in as many days on Saturday night. Havre routed Browning in the first two games by scores of 25-17 and 25-9. Browning mounted a big comeback in game three, but Owens and Overcast asserted themselves at the net late and the Ponies prevailed 25-23.
Owens again led the way with 10 kills and four aces. Overcast chipped in with eight kills and eight digs. Brittany Vandersloot also had a fine all-around game with eight digs and four aces. Tamara Guardipee led the Indians with nine kills and five blocks.
Havre is now 11-7 overall on the season. The Ponies are 6-3 in conference play and they have secured a second- place finish in the North division of the Central A Conference.
"Even though the loss to Lewistown is frustrating, I am not at all disappointed," Huebsch said. "The team played well and we picked up two very important conference wins. Hopefully, we can continue to improve on what we need to and get ready for the divisional tournament."
"We did some very good things in every match, especially against Browning, and now we just have to try to keep improving," Huebsch added.
The Blue Ponies will now prepare for the final weekend of the regular season. Havre will travel Livingston on Friday night for its final conference match of the regular season. On Saturday, the Ponies will take part in the Windy City Classic Invitational tournament.
Havre def. Browning
25-19, 25-10, 25-13.
Havre - Kills (Kristi Owens 10, Alicia Overcast 7), Assists 20 (Alexa Lipp), Digs 41 (Overcast 8, Brittany Vandersloot 7), Aces 11 (Keelie Solomon 3, Kari Bolken 3).
Browning - Kills 29 (Tamara Guardipee 13, Jenna Skunk Cap 13), Blocks 7 (Skunk Cap 4, Guardipee 3), Assists 21 (Noel Higgins 20), Digs 39 (Guardipee 16).
Lewistown def. Havre
25-19, 12-25, 26-24, 25-15,
Havre - Kills 40 ( Owens 14, Overcast 11), Blocks 2 (Kacy Herron 1, Kelsey Smith 1), Assists 36 (Lipp 34), Digs 61 (Overcast 22), Aces 6 (six with 1 each).
Lewistown - Kills 53 (Lesly Richter 19, Shaylynn Conroy 13), Blocks 4 (Claire Slagel 2), Assists 45 (Lauren Tognetti 44), Digs 94 (Conroy 22, Kayla Rettig 21), Aces 10 (Conroy 4, Tognetti 3).
Havre def. Browning
25-15, 25-9, 25-23.
Havre - Kills 32 (Owens 10, Overcast 8), Blocks 2 (Bolken 1,Smith 1), Assists 27 (Lipp 15, Bolken 8), Digs 37 (Overcast 8, Vandersloot 8), Aces 16 (Owens 4, Vandersloot 4).
Browning - Kills 14 (Guardipee 9, Jenna Skunk Cap 4), Blocks 8 (Guardipee 5, Skunk Cap 3), Assists 9 (Higgins 9), digs 56 (Tiffany Polk 14), Aces 4 Polk 2, Malisha Goggles 2).