Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre High volleyball team is coming off of an unprecedented and emotional win last Saturday in Lewistown. Now the Ponies head to Butte for a matchup tonight with Central A Conference cellar-dweller Butte Central.
The scenario usually spells trouble for a team riding the emotional wave of a win like the one the Blue Ponies experienced in Lewistown. But HHS head coach Bill Huebsch sees no cause for concern.
In fact, he said he is confident his team will be ready to play tonight.
“We haven't really talked about a possible letdown,” Huebsch said. “These kids have too much pride in wanting to finish the regular season undefeated in the conference. They also have a rivalry with Butte Central, so I am confident our kids will be come out ready to play.”
The Ponies sit atop the Central A standings at 6-0. Belgrade is looming right behind the Ponies at 6-1. The Maroons are at the bottom of the pack with a 1-8 conference record. Still, Huebsch isn't overlooking Butte Central or anyone else standing in Havre's way on the road to a perfect conference record.
“We certainly won't overlook Butte Central,” Huebsch said. “We prepared to play them this week just like any other team we have faced this season.”
In fact, the Maroons are already on the list of HHS victims. The Ponies opened the 2005-06 season with a three-game sweep of Butte Central in Havre in August. That match was a coming-out party for the Ponies, and they haven't looked back since. Havre has dismantled every conference opponent so far, and Huebsch is hoping the Ponies' best is still to come.
“I look at all we have accomplished this season, like winning the Windy City Classic and beating Lewistown,” he said. “And I still don't think we have played our best match yet. Right now I hope we are building momentum toward that so that we are playing our best at the divisional tournament.”
When the Ponies return from Butte, they will have a day off before getting back on the court on Saturday evening. Havre will host Class B powerhouse Choteau.
Huebsch said the Bulldogs will be a huge test.
“Choteau is one of the top six teams in Class B, along with Cut Bank,” Huebsch said. “They have a lot of experienced players and a bunch of seniors who have been playing together for a long time.
“They will be a very tough challenge for us,” he added. “But right now we need a match like that.”
Huebsch will likely get the tough match he is looking for with the Bulldogs. The Ponies have already lost to Cut Bank this season and Huebsch thinks the Bulldogs may be better. Choteau also possesses one of the top offensive players in Class B in Cali Buck.
“Cali Buck is a great player,” Huebsch said. “And she plays all around the floor, so she is definitely a concern.
“I expect Choteau to come in here and give us all we can handle,” he added. “But I think our kids are very prepared to play them. We also have a goal of going undefeated at home this season, so this is a big match for us.”
Havre will be without the services of senior Sjanetee D'Hooge this weekend. D'Hooge is still nursing an injured ankle. Huebsch has brought up sophomore Steph Stremcha to fill the gap.
“Not having Sjanetee on the floor is a concern,” Huebsch said. “She is off her crutches now, but she still isn't ready to play.
“But Steph is a very talented player and I expect her to do very well,” he added.
Fortunately, the Ponies do have a multitude of standout players who have been making noise in the Central A Conference all season. Junior Lena Suek is leading the league in kills with 195, and she is second in digs with 188. Sophomore Signe Hillson is fifth in kills with 100.
Senior Alexa Lipp is leading the Central A in assists with 516, and she is third in the league in serve percentage. Senior Kelsey Evans is third in the league in digs with 175, and fellow senior Keelie Solomon is fifth with 165.
The Blue Ponies will square off with Butte Central tonight at 5. Havre's match with Choteau will get under way at 5 p.m. Saturday at the HHS gymnasium.
CENTRAL A STANDINGS
Havre 6-0, 12-4
Belgrade 6-1, 8-7
Lewistown 4-3, 8-8
Browning 3-4, 5-10
Livingston 1-5, 3-8
Butte Central 1-8, 3-11