Havre Daily News Sports
The Havre High volleyball team is off to an amazingly hot start this season. The Ponies head into this weekend with a perfect record and fresh off a tournament championship at the Windy City Classic in Livingston.
Even as well as the Ponies are playing right now, things will get very difficult when they begin pool play at the always-tough Electric City Invitational on Friday morning at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls.
Havre is one of eight teams in the CMR pool, while eight other teams will be competing in the Great Falls High pool at the Bison Fieldhouse. The Ponies are one of only three Class A teams invited to prestigious Class AA tournament. Joining Havre are Central A foes Lewistown and Browning. Havre opens pool play at 10 a.m. with the aforementioned Indians.
Despite how well the Ponies have been playing the last two weeks, HHS veteran head coach Bill Huebsch understands that this weekend will be a major step up in competition. He believes that his team also understands it must raise its level of play.
"The kids have a lot of confidence right now, but I don't think they will be overconfident at all this weekend," Huebsch said. "They have all played in this tournament before and they understand how good a lot of these AA schools are.
"But I would also like to think that if we play the way we're capable of this weekend, we can do very well."
Indeed, the Ponies should have a chance to reach one of their early season goals, despite being in what Huebsch calls the more difficult of the two pools.
Havre has traditionally been very solid in this tournament, but reaching Saturday's championship tournament is a goal that hasn't always been attainable in years past. Still, it is a goal that the Ponies want to reach this weekend.
"It kind of works both ways," Huebsch said. "On one hand, I love the fact that we get to step up and play some great teams, because it will only benefit us later in the season. But we also want to reach the championship bracket. In our pool, that isn't going to be any easy task."
After the Ponies play Browning, they will have six straight matches against Class AA competition starting with a very good Billings Senior team at 11:30 a.m. At 1 p.m., Havre will take on Western A contender Kalispell and then face Missoula Hellgate at 2:30 p.m.
The marquee matchup of the CMR pool may be Havre's 4 p.m. contest when the Ponies square off against perhaps Class AA's best team in Butte High. Havre's final two matches will come at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. when they face host CMR and Helena High, respectively.
Each match in pool play will be two games to 18 points. Making the winners' bracket will be determined by total games won versus total games lost. Of the seven matches Havre plays on Friday, Huebsch was quick to point out three very challenging ones.
"Obviously Butte High is a very talented team and they have a phenomenal hitter," he said. "But we played them very close this summer, so it should be a very good match.
"I also look at the Kalispell match as a very difficult one as well as the match against Billings Senior," Huebsch added. "Those two teams are also going to do very well in Class AA this season."
While the Ponies have been red hot in all phases of their game so far this season, Huebsch is looking at this weekend as not just a challenge, but also as a measuring stick for where his team is at and where it needs to improve.
Facing bigger, stronger Class AA competition means that certain things will have to be executed very well if Havre is going to compete at such a high level.
"We certainly have to execute our offense well and so far we have been doing that," Huebsch said. "Alexa Lipp has just been doing an amazing job of running our offense, and she has worked so hard to learn it.
"We also have to be good on serve so that we can take teams out of their offense," he added. "We can't give these teams free balls, because they all have great hitters and they know what to do with balls when they get chances."
Havre will open pool play at CMR High School at 10 a.m. Friday. The championship tournament is slated to begin at 10 a.m. at the CMR Fieldhouse Saturday. The consolation bracket will begin Saturday morning at the Bison Fieldhouse.