Havre Daily News Sports
A new school year always brings about a renewed vigor and promise when it comes to high school athletics.
That enthusiasm and hope could hardly be higher than it is at Havre High School. The 2005 Blue Pony volleyball team can't wait to get the season started. They will get their wish on Saturday afternoon at home, when they host the Butte Central Maroons. It will be a chance for the Ponies to put last year squarely behind them.
The 2004 Blue Ponies finished a rollercoaster season with bitter disappointment at the Central A divisional tournament, where they were unable to win a single match, losing to the aforementioned Maroons in their final match of the year.
But the Ponies are a much more veteran and experienced team this year.
Havre High has seven seniors on Bill Huebsch's varsity roster this season and three outstanding underclassmen. Those ten players have Huebsch extremely excited about the upcoming season.
"The big thing is that because of all the experience we have coming back this year, it puts us so much further ahead of where we were last year," Huebsch said. "The kids already understand so much more of what we're doing, and that has made practices just phenomenal so far."
But it isn't just the experience. The Ponies have come to the season ready to work and, more importantly, win.
"Another great thing about this team is their attitude," he added. "We have a great group of competitors on the team and they have come into this season with a lot of enthusiasm. They are just really excited about volleyball right now. It is just a really exciting time for Havre High volleyball."
Of course, it won't hurt that Huebsch's team is not only comprised of great attitudes and hard workers, but of very talented players.
Most of Havre's roster has at least one year of varsity experience, and the Ponies have solid players at every position.
The senior class is led by the trio of defensive specialist Kelsey Evans, outside hitter Keelie Solomon and all-conference setter Alexa Lipp.
Those three have been playing volleyball together for four years and form a solid nucleus for the Ponies to build around. Havre High also has four other very capable seniors in Cammie West, Karissa Olson, Sjanettee D'Hooge and Liz Handy.
"Our seniors will provide some great leadership for this team this season," Huebsch said. "That is something we need, and I am confident that this senior class will really lead this team this year."
Huebsch's underclassmen aren't too bad either. Junior hitters Lena Suek and Carmen Neuens will form one of the most dangerous hitting tandems in the Central A conference this season. And 6-foot-1 sophomore Signe Hillson will provide some much needed height and a dominant presence at the net.
"Lena Suek is going to have a breakout year," Huebsch said. "She is a tremendous talent and is absolutely pounding the ball in practice right now.
"Carmen is still learning the game a little but she is just a tremendous athlete and she is going to be a great hitter as well," he added. "Signe is coming along really nicely. She is picking things up very quickly and she is going to help us out a lot."
One of things that also has the Ponies excited about this season is some changes to the offense that Huebsch made over the summer. It has already paid off as Havre had a great summer, including a very successful trip to Idaho Falls, Idaho last month.
"We are going to play a much faster paced offense that will be really tough to defend," Huebsch said. "It is a style that when we're in system is really effective and a lot of fun for the kids.
"They are picking it up very well so far. Once we get it down completely, it is going to put a lot of our opponents at a big disadvantage."
Another advantage that Havre has over the rest of the Central A division this year will be the fact that the divisional tournament will be in the friendly confines of the HHS gymnasium.
While the divisional tournament is still months away, it is something that Huebsch sees as important to his team's overall success this season.
"Hosting divisionals is one of many things that we have really working in our favor this season," he said. "It is something that the kids are already really looking forward to. It will be a big part of us attaining our goals this season."
And because of Havre's talent and experience this year, those goals are pretty lofty.
With perennial Central A powerhouse and defending Class A state champion Lewistown expected to be somewhat down this season, Havre should have a realistic shot at a regular season Central A championship and a possible divisional tournament title.