By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
It didn't look like a rivalry match. It looked more like an example of two teams heading in different direction.
The edge-of-the-seat, point-by-point, five-game matches usually played between the Havre High and Chinook volleyball teams never materialized. The Ponies cruised past the Sugarbeeters with relative ease, 25-23, 25-19, 25-11 Thursday night at the Chinook gymnasium.
What was supposed to be tight match, was anything but. Instead the youthful, but rapidly improving, Ponies showed that their hitting woes and inconsistencies are getting better with each match.
"It's starting to come around," said HHS head coach Bill Huebsch. "I keep telling myself to not be in such a big hurry. You want it all to happen right now. But we've a lot of girls that weren't on the team last year and their still growing and maturing as players."
However, for the talented and experienced Beeters it was a step backward for a team with state tournament aspirations.
"The biggest thing is playing team ball," said a disappointed Chinook head coach Doug Hayes. "We need some girls that put the team first and put themselves second. They can't play as an individual, they have to play teammate."
The match started off like a typical Havre-Chinook get-together. In the opening game, neither team played particularly sharp. Havre was plagued with its usual hitting errors, while Chinook struggled with its serve-receive and passing.
Both teams traded points until early on until a kill from Liz Handy and back-to-back aces from Karissa Olson gave the Ponies a 16-10 lead.
Chinook roared back behind its big hitters. Whitney Lybeck ripped a pair of kills, Georgia Barber and Obie added kills to cut the lead to one. Another kill from Lybeck and an ace from Crystal Roseberry tied the match at 19.
A kill and an ace from Lena Suek put the Ponies up 22-21, but Lybeck banged home another winner to tie the score at 22. The teams tied the score again at 23 following kills from Handy and Barber. But a Chinook net serve and a Kristin Evanson kill gave Havre the first game 25-23.
"I thought both teams were kind of tentative early on, which happens in a rivalry match like this," Huebsch said. "I think our ball control helped us get through that first game. Somebody just came up with a big play."
Indeed, Havre made up for a woeful hitting performance in the first game, by keeping balls alive, making good passes and coming up with effective tips.
In game two, Havre jumped out to an 11-6, punctuated by a pair of Alexa Lipp aces. Chinook pecked away at the lead, cutting it to 15-12 on a block and a tip kill from Lybeck and an ace from Obie. The Ponies pushed the lead back up to five, but a Barber tip and ace from Gen Burkhartsmeyer helped the Beeters trim the lead to 17-16.
The Ponies committed a pair of hitting errors, allowing Chinook to tie the match at 17. However, Handy came up with a timely tip shot, and Karissa Olson followed it up with an ace and the Ponies would never look back. Chinook tried to stave off defeat, but a three costly errors and three consecutive aces from Havre's Keelie Solomon ended the game at 25-19.
"Our serving kept them out of their offense a little," Huebsch said. "They had have a lot of players that cane hit the ball well. But we served them tough. I think I can count four or five times where we didn't hit our spots on our serves."
Havre's serving did a very effective job of slowing Lybeck down. After dominating for a game and a half, the Beeters were unable to make passes to set up her up for kills. Huebsch and the Ponies also started changing things to slow her down.
"We kept changing our blocking schemes to give her different looks," Huebsch said. "Sometimes we came at her with one blocker and other times with two."
The strategy seemed to work as Lybeck accumulated the bulk of her match-high 10 kills in the first game and a half.
In game three, Havre made quick work with the Beeters. The Ponies jumped out to a 12-3 lead. The big lead allowed the Pony hitters to play relaxed and as a result, their hitting improved vastly.
"We told the girls in game two 'Don't play carefully'," Huebsch said. "If you play careful, you lose. With that big lead, our girls were able to relax and we started hitting the ball like we're capable of."
Once Havre started hitting, the game was put out of reach early. Handy, Suek and Sjanetee D'Hooge all had multiple kills down the stretch in the 25-11.
"I thought everybody did their jobs pretty efficiently," Huebsch said. "Liz Handy had a great game tonight at the net. It was her best game of the season. Lena was pretty steady and Kelsey and Keelie made some unbelievable plays on some down balls. Everybody just played really well."
Handy and Suek finished with eight kills each, while Lipp dished out 19 assists. Evans had 10 digs. The Ponies served up 14 aces with Solomon notching five and Olson and Lipp netting three each.
After being in the match for almost a game and a half, Hayes was disappointed his to see his team fall apart at the end.
"This was definitely the low point of the season," Hayes said. "There's nothing to compare with how we played tonight. We just have to start over."
Besides her 10 kills, Lybeck added three blocks. Barber added seven kills. Crystal Roseberry had seven assists and seven digs. Obie chipped in with seven digs. Still, Hayes did find some positives in the loss.
"We showed that we have some depth," Hayes said. "We had to put some of our younger girls in some tough positions tonight and they responded."
Havre def. Chinook
25-23, 25-19, 25-11
Havre - Kills: 23 (Liz Handy 8, Lena Suek 8); Assists: 20 (Alexa Lipp 19); Digs: 29 (Kelsey Evans 10, Lena Suek 6); Blocks: 2 (Sjanetee D'Hooge 1, Lena Suek 1); Aces: 13 (Keelie Solomon 5, Karissa Olson 3, Alexa Lipp 3).
Chinook - Kills: 22 (Whitney Lybeck 10, Georgia Barber 7); Assists: 13 (Crystal Roseberry 7, Andrea Eslick 5); Digs 31(Morgan Obie 7, Crystal Roseberry 7); Blocks: 6 (Whitney Lybeck 3); Aces 3 (Monica Thackeray 1)