By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
Saturday's season-opening match with Butte Central went just about the way Havre High head volleyball coach Bill Huebsch predicted. His young team made mistakes at times and went through a difficult lull in the second and third games of the match.
Despite the Ponies' struggles, they were able to gut out a five-game win over the Maroons and pick up a very important first conference win of the young season. Havre defeated Butte Central by scores of 25-19, 14-25, 23-25, 25-14 and 15-9.
"The most encouraging thing is that we definitely didn't play our best volleyball and we still won," Huebsch said. "That won't be our last game five of the season either. I thought we played pretty well at times and at times we didn't. The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes in this match and get better next week."
Havre opened the first match of the year very strong with a 25-19 win in the first game. But then the hitting errors started coming in bunches in the second game. At one point the Ponies trailed 20-12 in game two. Havre never got on track as Butte Central prevailed 25-14. Havre's passing and hitting errors seemed to carry over early into game three, and Butte Central jumped out to a 12-6 lead early in the game.
However, the Ponies rallied behind some solid hitting from Lena Suek and timely serving by Kelsey Evans. Even though the Ponies fell 25-23, Huebsch said that the middle of game three was a turning point in the match.
"We did not play well at all in game two," Huebsch said. "But I thought we started getting better at the end of the third game and we built some momentum for the rest of match."
Indeed, the Ponies came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth game. They raced out to an 8-4 lead behind the hitting of Suek and Carmen Neuens. That lead ballooned to as much as 20-7 behind three straight kills from Suek. Sjanetee D'Hooge took over from there. D'Hooge put away three of Havre's final five points to send the match into a decisive fifth game.
In that fifth game, D'Hooge continued her solid hitting. She recorded three more kills to give Havre an early 7-3 lead. The Ponies never looked back and took the fifth game 15-9.
"Our hitting and passing got much better in the third and fourth games," Huebsch said. "Once we got it to a fifth game, we just didn't want to be flat. We wanted to win the game in five point increments and the kids played really well and got it done.
"This was a tough match," Huebsch added. "Butte Central played us really tough. They served well and they did a good job of taking us out of our offense at times. But I really like how our kids responded to that pressure. Especially our younger kids."
Suek led the way for the Ponies with 12 kills in her varsity debut, while D'Hooge chipped in with 11 kills in her first varsity match. Alexa Lipp had 42 assists and Kristin Evanson had four aces. Lipp and Evans added three service aces as the Ponies served 93 percent for the match.
"I thought all of our kids played well at times," Huebsch said. "Lena and Sjanetee hit the ball pretty well and Kelsey Evans had a great all-around game today.
"Keelie Solomon also did a great job and so did Cammie West and Karissa Olson," he added.
The win means that Havre starts the year off 1-0 in Central A conference play and Huebsch knows that while it is early, picking up the first conference win was very important.
"This was a big win for us because of our schedule," Huebsch said. "Our first three matches of the year are conference matches, so this was a really good start for us."
Havre will travel to Livingston this weekend for a pair of conference matches on Friday night. The Ponies will take on Livingston and Belgrade on Friday and they will participate in the Windy City Classic on Saturday morning.
Havre def. Butte Central
25-19, 14-25, 23-25, 25-14, 15-9.
Havre Leaders: Kills 46 (Lena Suek 12, Sjanetee D'Hooge 11); Blocks 2 (Sjanetee D'Hooge 1, Kristin Evanson 1); Assists 42 (Alexa Lipp 42); Digs 64 (Kelsey Evans 15, Keelie Solomon 15); Aces 11 (Kristin Evanson 4).