Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre High volleyball team needed a difficult warmup match for the upcoming Central A divisional tournament that is just two weeks away.
What they got on Saturday night at the HHS gymnasium was a huge helping of Cali Buck and the Class B Choteau Bulldogs. The two teams waged an epic battle, with Choteau edging the Ponies in five games by scores of 25-21, 15-25, 22-25, 25-23 and 15-12
“Our kids played very hard, and for the most part they played a great match,” HHS head coach Bill Huebsch said. “We had some chances to win and so that always hurts when those get away from you.
“But I thought we needed a match like this,” he added. “So hopefully we'll learn from it and go forward from here.”
Indeed, the Ponies had chances to put the Bulldogs away several different times. But missed defensive assignments and too much Cali Buck ended Havre's hopes of going undefeated on its home floor.
Buck had a career night for the Bulldogs with 26 kills and 11 solo blocks. The senior singlehandedly kept the Bulldogs in the match. When she was needed most, Huebsch said, she delivered.
“We went into this match knowing we had to slow her down,” he said. “But we just couldn't find a way to stop her. I don't think anybody is going to. She is a tremendous player, and she came up with some big kills when they really needed them.”
Havre also got a career-best night from Signe Hillson. The 5-11 sophomore racked up 18 kills and three solo blocks to pace the Ponies. Senior Lena Suek found her stride again, recording 17 kills on the night. Keelie Solomon paced Havre's defensive efforts with 18 digs.
“I was really proud of the way Signe Hillson played,” Huebsch said. “She is really coming into her own and she played extremely well on Saturday night.
“Lena also got back on track and that was a big positive for us,” he added. “She had been pretty frustrated because teams were defending her so well.”
The weekend was not a total loss for the Ponies. On Thursday, Havre kept its stranglehold on the Central A standings with a three-game sweep of Butte Central in Butte. The Ponies downed the Maroons by scores of 25-14, 25-18 and 25-23.
Suek and Hillson paced the Ponies offensively with eight and six kills, respectively. Suek also had three digs on the night, and sophomore Steph Stremcha had three solo blocks. Senior Karissa Olson had three service aces on the night.
“It was still a productive weekend for us,” Huebsch said. “The Choteau match was a tough one to lose, but I think overall we played very well all weekend.”
Havre (13-5, 7-0) will wrap up its regular season this weekend. On Friday, the Ponies will host Lewistown for senior night. On Saturday HHS will travel to Browning for its final Central A Conference match of the year against Belgrade and Livingston.
Choteau def. Havre
25-21, 15-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12
Choteau - Kills: 48 (Cali Buck 26). Aces: 11 (Missy Stenson 4). Assists: 40 (Casey Rasmusen 36). Digs: 65 (Leah Stringfellow 16). Blocks: 26 (Buck 11).
Havre - Kills: 59 (Signe Hillson 18, Lena Suek 17). Aces: 7 (Liz Handy 4). Assists: 53 (Alexa Lipp 51). Digs: 81 (Keelie Solomon 18). Blocks: 7 (Hillson 3).
Havre def. Butte Central
25-14, 25-18, 25-23
Havre - Kills 28 (Lena Suek 8, Signe Hillson 6); Blocks 6 (Steph Stremcha 3.5); Assists 24 (Alexa Lipp 24); Digs 56 (Lena Suek 11); Aces 7 (Karissa Olson 3).