Havre Daily News Sports Editor
It seems like just yesterday that the 2005 Havre High volleyball team's season was beginning. Tonight, the Ponies will wrap up the home portion of their schedule, and, for seven seniors, tonight's match against Lewistown will be their last regular-season match at the Havre High gymnasium.
Senior night is always a special event, but tonight emotions will be very high as HHS honors its seniors before they square off against their archrival, the Lewistown Eagles.
The seven HHS seniors who be honored are: Keelie Solomon, Alexa Lipp, Karissa Olson, Cammie West, Sjanetee D'Hooge, Liz Handy and Kelsey Evans.
“This is a really special group of seniors, and the most important thing about them is they are all really good people,” said HHS head coach Bill Huebsch. “I have had the good fortune of working with them for four years, and they have stayed together through it all. They are a very talented group of players who will be impossible to replace.”
Senior night always seems to bring out the best in the Blue Ponies, but tonight, the Eagles should also do that. Despite the fact that Havre defeated the Eagles for the first time in six years two weeks ago, Huebsch said his players thought they could have played better in that match. The Ponies will be hoping to do just that in front of their home crowd tonight.
“That is what I love about this team,” Huebsch said. “Beating Lewistown for the first time in a long time was a tremendous accomplishment.
“But after the match the kids all felt like they should have played better,” he added. “So they are very determined to play at a very high level against Lewistown this time around.”
With a win against the Eagles, Havre will at least clinch a share of the Central A Conference regular season crown, as well as secure the top seed in next week's Central A divisional tournament. The Ponies are 7-0 in conference play, and only second-place Belgrade has a chance to catch Havre. With a conference championship close at hand, Huebsch said his team has more than enough reasons to be fired up about tonight's match.
“We have had a very good week of practice,” Huebsch said. “The kids have been really focused, and we have worked hard to correct some of the mistakes we made against Choteau.”
Havre comes into the matchup with the Eagles on a one-match losing streak. The Ponies dropped a five-game heartbreaker to Class B Choteau last Saturday. Past HHS teams might have been concerned about the loss heading into a matchup with Lewistown. But this HHS team is different.
“Beating Lewistown the first time around and all of the other things we have accomplished this year has given this team a tremendous amount of confidence,” Huebsch said. “Now we are supposed to beat Lewistown, whereas in years past it was the other way around. I think the kids really relish the position that they are in right now.”
Even though Havre dispatched the Eagles with relative ease in their first meeting, Lewistown is still an upper-tier team in the Central A. The Eagles possess three of the top hitters in the league in Katie d'Autremont, Lyndsi Bayless and Heidi Rettig. Rettig also leads the conference in digs, and Ashley Boetteger is one of the top all-around players in the conference.
The Ponies also have league leaders scattered up and down their roster, as well as one of the fastest rising young players in the conference. Sophomore Signe Hillson is coming off of a career night against Choteau, where she totalled 18 kills and three blocks. Hillson is fifth in the Central A in kills with 124 and seventh in blocks with 28.
Lena Suek continues to lead the Central A with 220 kills and is second in digs with 216. Senior Alexa Lipp is well ahead of the pack in assists with 591. Boetteger is second with 514.
After Havre and Lewistown meet on Friday night, the Ponies will take their final road trip of the season when they travel to Browning Saturday afternoon. In Browning, Havre will square off against Belgrade and Livingston. The host Indians will also take on the Panthers and Rangers.
If Havre defeats Lewistown, it will need just one win to wrap up the Central A title. Havre already owns three-game wins over both teams, but Huebsch isn't letting his team overlook anybody.
“This is a big weekend for us and we have a chance to accomplish a lot of our regular-season goals,” Huebsch said. “Playing three conference matches in two days is tough.
“But if we can play as well as we did against Choteau, I think we will be fine,” he added. “Even though we lost that match, I really liked how this team played that night, and if we can have that same effort this weekend we'll be sitting pretty good.”
Tonight's match between Havre (13-5, 7-0) and Lewistown (9-9, 5-3) will get under way at 7 at the HHS gymnasium. Saturday in Browning, the Ponies will face Belgrade and Livingston, beginning at 10 a.m.