By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Consistency. It is never an easy proposition when it comes to high school athletics. Consistency is what the Havre High volleyball team went looking for this weekend at the Electric City Invitational in Great Falls. But, the Ponies didn't necessarily find it.
The Ponies went 3-11 in pool play on Friday at the C.M. Russell Fieldhouse, which left them out of the championship bracket. Havre faced all Class AA competition on Friday, and veteran head coach Bill Huebsch said that once again the weekend was a tale of two different teams.
"We started off really slow in pool play on Friday," Huebsch said. "We played really poorly against Billings Skyview early and then we got better. The same thing happened against Billings Senior. Our young hitters were really inconsistent on Friday and it hurt us at times because you have to hit the ball against these AA schools."
Huebsch had hoped that the higher level of competition would help raise his team's level of play.
"I was really excited to be in this pool because we were playing four of the top five teams in Class AA," Huebsch said. "It was great experience for us, but we also had some chances to be 7-7 instead of 3-11 if we could have finished off some games that we were in it at the end."
The Ponies started to turn things around Friday afternoon. Havre managed to salvage a split with Missoula Big Sky and a split with the host CMR Rustlers. They also had close calls with Butte and Helena Capital.
The 3-11 record on Friday put the Ponies in the consolation bracket on Saturday. Havre squared off in the quarterfinals against a familiar foe, the defending Class A state champion Lewistown Eagles.
Havre had not beaten the Eagles in three years, but Saturday morning was different. Havre jumped on Lewistown early and never let the Eagles into the match, defeating them in two games, 25-16 and 25-15.
"The kids were fired up to play Lewistown and they played really well the entire match," Huebsch said. "We got great serving from Keelie Solomon and Kelsey Evans, and our front line of Lena Suek, Liz Handy, Sjanetee D'Hooge and Carmen Neuens all hit the ball extremely well.
"It was a great win for us and I think the girls saw what can happen when we play with confidence and we hit the ball well," he added.
Following the win over the Eagles, the Ponies fell to Helena Capital in the semifinals by scores of 25-16 and 25-23. Lewistown rebounded to then beat the Ponies in two games for third place in the consolation tournament.
"We played Capitol close and we had chances in the second game of that match," Huebsch said. "Then Lewistown took it to us early in the second match and we expected that.
"We had two chances to extend it to a third game, but we couldn't finish it off," Huebsch added. "Overall, I thought we played much better on Saturday, and it is encouraging to beat Lewistown and play them close a second time."
The tournament was yet another learning experience for a youthful Pony squad.
"Now I just hope that we can learn that we need to find some consistency hitting the ball," he said. "We need to keep getting better each time we step on the floor. We got a lot of valuable experience this weekend and now we need to make that work for us down the road."
Havre will be back in action on Thursday night when the team travels to Chinook to take on the rival Beeters. That game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Chinook High School gymnasium.
Electric City Classic
Billings Skyview split Havre 18-7, 16-18
Billings Senior def. Havre 18-4, 18-10
Kalispell def. Havre 18-9, 18-11
Missoula Big Sky split Havre 9-18, 18-17
Butte def. Havre 18-13, 18-15
CMR split Havre 16-18, 18-16
Helena Capitol def. Havre 18-17, 18-13.
Havre def. Lewistown 25-16, 25-15
Helena Capital def. Havre 25-16, 25-23
Lewistown def. Havre 25-16, 27-25.