By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
It has been almost two weeks since the Havre High volleyball team last played an actual match. But now the Ponies must prepare for three matches in two days, starting with a trip to Browning and winding up with a rematch with the Indians on Saturday night, which will also be senior and parents night at the Havre High Gymnasium.
Sandwiched in between the two tilts with Browning will be Saturday afternoon's matchup with the No. 1 ranked Lewistown Eagles.
Because of Montana Education Association meetings last week, the Blue Ponies haven't played since their thrilling five-game win over the Chinook Sugarbeeters in Chinook on Oct. 14.
Now the Ponies enter the final two weeks of the regular season rested and refocused, according to HHS head coach Bill Huebsch.
"This break came at the perfect time for us," Huebsch said. "We have been going nonstop since the beginning of August and it was really good to get a break. It was good for the kids to get out of the gym and get their minds off of things for a while.
"We have had a real crisp week of practice and I think we are feeling good both mentally and physically. We'll be ready to play this weekend."
The weekend begins tonight for the Ponies with a trip to face a struggling Browning team. The Indians are 2-10 on the season and 0-8 in conference play. They are currently sitting last in the Central A North Division. Meanwhile, the Ponies come in with an impressive 10-6 overall record and a 4-2 mark in the conference. Included in that record is a two-game sweep of Browning back in August at the Central A Extravaganza in Belgrade.
Despite Browning's struggles, Huebsch is hoping his team won't take the Indians lightly in either match. Browning does have a distinct size advantage and the anchor of their lineup is 6-2 standout Tamara Guardipee.
"I think the girls learned from the Great Falls High match that we have to respect every opponent," Huebsch said. "Browning hasn't played very well this season, but they are a lot bigger than us and they do have a very big block at the net.
"We need to be sharp offensively and pass the ball well and I think we will be just fine against them."
Saturday afternoon things will be a little different for the Ponies when they hook up with the rival Eagles at 4 p.m.
Lewistown (13-4, 8-0) is the top-rated team in Class A and has already secured the number one seed for the Central A divisional tournament in Belgrade in two weeks. But as good as the Eagles are, the Blue Ponies have the distinction of being the only Class A team to push Lewistown to a fifth game this season. Huebsch is hoping the memory of that match will give his team the confidence they need on Saturday.
"The girls know that we gave Lewistown a very good match in their gym earlier this season," Huebsch said. "Hopefully, that will instill even more confidence in them, because we haven't had any success against them in a long time."
But the upstart Ponies may need more than confidence if they are to end a long and torturous drought of losses against the Eagles. Havre was close to closing the Eagles out in four games the last time the two teams hooked up, but crucial hitting errors cost the Ponies valuable points down the stretch.
Huebsch hopes that his team will eliminate those mistakes and that the Chinook match will have taught his team a valuable lesson that it can use to upend the Eagles.
"First off, we cannot have a lot of mistakes that cost us free points," Huebsch said. "We have to serve well and pass the ball well and force Lewistown to beat us with their offense.
"Also, I hope that our hitters learned from the Chinook match that they cannot pound the ball through a huge block because Lewistown does have a very big block."
After the match against Lewistown, the Ponies will take on Browning again. Before the match, Havre High will honor its seven seniors and their parents. Seniors Brittany Vandersloot, Alicia Overcast, Kristi Owens, Kelsey Smith, Samantha Seidel, Ashley Hagen and Kari Bolken will be playing their final home match of their career when they take the floor against Browning Saturday night.
The Blue Ponies weekend will get underway tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Browning. Saturday's matches against Lewistown and Browning will begin at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively at Havre High Gymnasium.