By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ firstname.lastname@example.org
One difficult tournament down, one to go. Such is the circumstances surrounding the Havre high volleyball team this week.
After a Jekyll and Hyde performance at last weekend's Windy City Classic in Livingston, the Ponies return to the road Friday morning to participate in an even more challenging tournament - the Electric City Invitational in Great Falls.
The Ponies begin pool play at C.M. Russell High School Friday morning against the Billings Skyview Falcons.
Havre's entire pool consists of Class AA opponents and while the task of qualifying for Saturday's championship bracket (top four from each pool) will be daunting for head coach Bill Huebsch's youthful and undersized Havre team, he likes the pool his team is in this year.
"I am really excited about our pool because we won't see Lewistown or Browning," Huebsch said. "Playing all AA schools gives us a chance to see a lot of new competition and a chance for us to play up a level. That will only make us better down the road no matter what happens this weekend.
Aside from their opening match with the Falcons, Havre will also face defending Class AA state champion Billings Senior at 12:15 a.m. and Kalispell at 1 p.m. In the late afternoon, Havre will square off against Missoula Big Sky at 2:30 and Butte High at 4 p.m.
In the evening, the Ponies will wrap up pool play with the CMR Rustlers at 5:30 p.m. and the Helena Capitol Bruins at 7:45.
The top four from the Ponies pool as well as the top four teams from the Bison pool played at Great Falls High will advance to the championship tournament on Saturday morning. The bottom four from each pool will play in a consolation tournament.
The Ponies enter pool play fresh off of a strange weekend in Livingston. Havre routed Belgrade and Livingston on Friday night in a pair of Central A conference matches. They then struggled on Saturday morning in pool play against some very solid schools from lower classifications.
Havre did manage to rebound and go 1-1 in the single elimination tournament on Saturday afternoon. Hitting mistakes ended up being the Ponies undoing. Huebsch said that some of those things will have to be corrected this weekend.
"We have some very young hitters on this team and I know they are going to make some mistakes," Huebsch said. "I think the key for them right now is to not put so much pressure on themselves and just go out and relax and play volleyball.
"If we can hit the ball and get around these AA schools big block this weekend, I think we will be all right," he added. "We just have to play smart and not bury ourselves early, because if you do that in pool play things can be over in a hurry."
Even though the Ponies struggled at times in Livingston and they will be facing very stiff competition on Friday morning in Great Falls, Huebsch said that their goals this weekend have not changed - they remain two-fold.
"We always go into this tournament wanting to make it to the championship bracket on Saturday," Huebsch said. "But I think more importantly for us this weekend is that we get better each time we step out on the floor. We need to take positives out of this tournament and use them for later on in the season."