Havre Daily News Sports
The Havre High volleyball team's first two weeks of the 2005 season were, to say the least, highly successful. But heading into Friday's opening day of the Electric City Classic in Great Falls, HHS head coach Bill Huebsch knew his team was in for a much sterner test.
After a solid fifth-place finish over the two-day competition, Huebsch found out his team is a good as advertised. Even opposing coaches felt the same way.
"I thought we played really well all weekend," Huebsch said. "We had some games where we didn't finish strong, and one match where we didn't play very well at the start.
"But overall, this was a very successful weekend for us," he added. "Even some of the coaches from some of the AA teams we played were telling me after the matches how impressed they were with our team, and that is always really positive to hear."
Indeed, Class AA opponents had reason to be impressed with the Class A Ponies. Havre was faced with the daunting task of trying to reach Saturday's championship bracket by way of the very difficult CMR pool on Friday. And all the Ponies did was go 7-7 on the day, including several quality wins.
Havre opened pool play with a two-game sweep of Browning, but followed that up by getting swept by undefeated and eventual champion Billings Senior. The Ponies were in both games early on, but Senior's talent and its hitters proved too much for Havre and any other team the rest of the weekend.
After the losses to Senior, Havre rebounded with an 18-16,18-16 sweep of Kalispell and a dominating 18-14, 18-10 sweep of Missoula Hellgate. The Ponies then fell back a little in the pool standings after they were swept by both Butte High and host CMR. HHS closed the day with an 18-5, 17-18 split with powerful Helena High. That split was good enough to get Havre into the championship bracket, but Huebsch said his team's record could have been better.
"We definitely accomplished our goal of making the championship bracket and we were five points away from being 10-4 instead of 7-7," Huebsch said. "So that is a clear indication of how well our girls played on Friday.
"Except for the match against a great Billings Senior team, we were in every game we played that day," he added. "We were right with Butte halfway through both games and we played CMR really tough as well. The sweep of Kalispell was really big for us, because they are a very solid team."
One of the things that Huebsch was very impressed with over the weekend, but especially on Friday, was his team's ability to handle the taller and stronger front block of the Class AA schools. He credited Havre's poise to the play of his back-row players.
"We did a great job most of the weekend of not letting some of these teams' big hitters really get off on us, and that is something we talked about having to do going into this tournament," he said. "Kelsey Evans, Karissa Olson and Keelie Solomon all did a great job of passing the ball, and we played pretty well defensively all weekend."
With a 7-7 record in pool play being good enough to get the Ponies into the championship tournament, Havre embarked on trying to slay more Class AA competition on Saturday morning. But as well as they played Friday, the Ponies didn't carry that momentum over to Saturday morning.
HHS opened the winners tournament with a tough Billings West team and, according to Huebsch, his team may not have been ready to face the Bears as they were drubbed 25-16 and 25-13.
"Against Billings West, the kids just didn't appear ready to play," he said. "We just weren't as sharp as we were the day before and a good team like West will make you pay for that."
But the Ponies weren't quite ready to bow out of the prestigious tournament just yet. They rebounded from their loss to West with a 25-18, 25-23 sweep of Helena Capital. Capital is one of three teams expected to vie for the Western AA divisional championship this season, and Huebsch said that the win was very important for his team's confidence level.
"Beating Capital was a great way for our kids to rebound from the loss to West," Huebsch said. "They played really well in that match, and Capital is a very good team."
Havre then nearly knocked off another quality opponent in Billings Skyview in its final match of the tournament. The Ponies fell short late in each game, as they lost by scores of 25-22 and 25-21. The finish against Skyview was one of the few things that Huebsch was not pleased with over the course of the weekend.
"We had chances in both games against Skyview to win and we just couldn't finish," Huebsch said. "At this point, it seems like we are just not mentally tough enough to put games away when we have the chance. That is something we need to get better at."
Of course, with a fifth-place finish at a prestigious Class AA tournament in hand, Huebsch isn't complaining about much these days. He hopes his team feels the same way.
"I hope the kids take a lot of good things and a lot of confidence away from this tournament, because we played well against some great competition," he said. "We just also need to know that there are areas where we still need to improve and where we can get better.
"This was a great weekend for us," he added. "And I am really proud of how all of our kids competed."
Havre High will be back in action on Saturday when it travels to Browning for a Central A conference match.
Electric City Classic
Billings Senior 14-0, Butte High 11-3, C.M. Russell High 9-5, Havre High 7-7, Helena High 7-7, Kalispell 5-9, Browning 3-11, Missoula Hellgate 0-14.
Butte def. Helena 18-16; Helena def. Butte 18-4
Havre swept Browning 18-15, 18-11
C.M. Russell swept Missoula Hellgate 18-2, 18-9
Billings Senior swept Kalispell 18-14, 18-10
Billings Senior swept Havre 18-14, 18-10
Butte swept Browning 18-15, 18-15
Kalispell swept Missoula Hellgate 18-10, 18-9
C.M. Russell swept Helena 18-13, 18-14
Helena swept Missoula Hellgate 18-14, 18-8
Havre swept Kalispell 18-16, 18-16
C.M. Russell swept Browning 18-8, 18-8
Billings Senior swept Butte 18-11, 18-16
Helena swept Browning 18-13, 18-9
Havre swept Missoula Hellgate 18-14, 18-12
Butte swept Kalispell 18-15, 18-14
Billings Senior swept C.M. Russell 18-17, 18-16
Butte swept Havre 18-15, 18-16
Browning swept Missoula Hellgate 18-10, 18-12
Billings Senior swept Helena 18-17, 18-12
Kalispell def. C.M. Russell 18-7; CMR def. Kalispell 18-12
C.M. Russell swept Havre 18-14, 18-13
Kalispell def. Helena 18-11; Helena def. Kalispell 18-17
Butte swept Missoula Hellgate 18-6, 18-15
Billings Senior swept Browning 18-1, 18-7
Billings Senior swept Missoula Hellgate 18-7, 18-5
Butte swept C.M. Russell High 18-14, 18-7
Kalispell def. Browning 18-9; Browning def. Kalispell 18-14
Havre def. Helena 18-5; Helena def. Havre 18-17
Billings Senior def. Great Falls High 25-13, 26-24
Billings Skyview def. C.M. Russell High 25-16, 25-21
Billings West def. Havre High 25-16, 25-13
Butte High def. Helena Capital 25-21, 25-19
Billings Senior def. Billings Skyview 25-19, 25-22
Butte High def. Billings West 23-25, 25-22, 25-18
Great Falls High def. C.M. Russell High 25-21, 25-20
Havre High def. Helena Capital 25-18, 25-23
Billings West def. Great Falls High 25-22, 24-26, 25-22
Billings Skyview def. Havre High 25-22, 25-21
Billings West def. Billings Skyview 26-28, 26-24, 25-16 (West finishes third, Skyview fourth)
Billings Senior def. Butte High 25-19, 25-15