By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High volleyball team is in the midst of a three-match winning streak. Fans may have forgotten that fact, however, because the Ponies haven't been on the floor since Oct. 19, when they defeated Chinook in three games.
While HHS head coach Bill Huebsch insists that the time off has been good for his troops, he admits that he and his young team are anxious to get back on the floor tonight when they travel to archrival Lewistown for a pivotal Central A Conference showdown.
"We have had a lot of time to rest and get re-energized for the end of the regular season," Huebsch said. "Practice has gone really well, and I think we are ready to hopefully make one final push before divisionals."
Tonight's road trip to Lewistown is the first of four conference matches in the next two weeks for the Ponies. There is plenty at stake in each one of them.
The Ponies will host Browning on Saturday evening and twill wrap up their regular season next Saturday with home matches against Belgrade and Livingston.
Havre is in second place in the Central A Conference with a 4-2 record and is 11-6 overall. Butte Central is right behind the Ponies in third place, while the Eagles are in first place with a 5-0 record. While a win tonight won't necessarily help Havre catch the Eagles, Huebsch said it would be an important step toward securing second place and a first-round bye at the divisional tournament.
"We have built quite a bit of momentum this last couple of weeks and we need that to continue," Huebsch said. "Finishing in first or second place in our conference means you only have to win two matches instead of three to get to the state tournament, so these next four matches are going to be huge."
Tonight's match is equally as important to the mental state of the Blue Ponies. They were feeling good about themselves three weeks ago when they faced Lewistown in Havre. However, the Eagles came away with a three-game win and virtually dashed any hopes of a regular-season championship for the Ponies. Since that match, Havre has won four of its last five matches.
The Ponies' current winning ways can be attributed to the coming of age of Havre's hitters. Since a difficult performance against the Eagles in Havre, the Ponies have come alive at the net. Sjanetee D'Hooge and Liz Handy have hit the ball extremely well, and Carmen Neuens and Lena Suek have been rock-solid all season.
If Havre is to get a win in Lewistown tonight, Huebsch said his front four will have to continue their stellar play.
"One thing that the girls learned from the first match against Lewistown is that we do match up well with them," Huebsch said. "Our unforced errors hurt us way more than anything they did offensively.
"We don't want to take anything away from Lewistown because they are a great team," Huebsch added. "But we know that if we can play like we have the last couple of matches, we will be right in the match with them."
Win or lose in Lewistown tonight, Huebsch is hoping his team continues to play well.
"Our kids have a lot of confidence right now, and there is no reason why we shouldn't be confident against Lewistown," he said. "I think we are playing our best volleyball of the season and we need that to continue this weekend."
On Saturday night, the Ponies will return home to face Browning. Havre dismantled the Indians a month ago in Browning despite the play of senior Jenna Skunkcap. Skunkcap is leading the Central A in several offensive categories, including kills and hitting percentage. With Skunkcap on the floor, Huebsch knows that Browning is always a dangerous team.
"We certainly can't overlook Browning," Huebsch said. "We can't afford to relax because of how we played against them in Browning. I think our kids know by now that they have to be ready to play each time out, and we will have to be sharp on Saturday night, because every match from here on out is important."
Tonight's match between Havre and Lewistown is scheduled to get under way at 7 p.m. in Lewistown. Saturday's match between Browning and Havre will begin at 5 p.m. in the Havre High gymnasium.