Havre Daily News Sports Writer
One postseason goal down, one more to go. That is the battle cry for the Havre High volleyball team as it prepares to open play today in the Class A state volleyball tournament in Bozeman.
The Ponies have already had a stellar season, as they captured both the Central A regular-season title and the Central A divisional championship. Havre capped its divisional title with a dramatic come-from-behind, five-game victory over archrival Lewistown.
It was a win that will definitely give the Ponies a big boost of confidence and some much-needed momentum heading into the state tournament.
“Beating Lewistown the way we did was a great way to go into the state tournament,” HHS head coach Bill Huebsch said. “We could have won and played poorly, but the way we won will really be a confidence-builder going into this weekend.”
The Blue Ponies will face Bigfork in their opening-round match in what should be a stern test. Bigfork comes into the state tournament off a second- place finish in the Northwest divisional tournament, where they lost twice to defending state champion Whitefish.
“Bigfork is a really solid team,” Huebsch said. “They have some height, and they are a pretty athletic team.”
Bigfork is lead by Mary Hall, who had the team's most kills in all of its matches in the divisional tournament, and is also among the leaders in digs. Whitney Wilson is also a major contributor, as she routinely is among the team leaders in blocks and digs. Alyssa Fierro is another strong blocker the Ponies will have to deal with.
“Bigfork has 10 seniors and they are a very experienced team,” Huebsch said.
The Ponies are also a very experienced team. They are led by their seven seniors, as well as junior standout Lena Suek and sophomore Signe Hillson. Suek had another good performance last weekend with 12 kills in the semifinal win over Belgrade and 16 kills and 20 digs in the championship match against Lewistown. Alexa Lipp had a great weekend passing the ball, and had an especially stellar performance against Lewistown with 46 assists and four aces.
Liz Handy and Sjanetee D'Hooge also had very solid weekends up front hitting the ball. The Ponies also got a solid defensive effort from Kelsey Evans, Cammie West, Karissa Olson and Keelie Solomon, who all played extremely well in the back row.
Off the bench, the Ponies have been sparked by Carmen Neuens, who had 16 kills against Lewistown.
“Carmen Neuens has been a real spark for us this year,” Huesch said. “All of the kids have really stepped up big.”
Havre is considered one of the favorites coming into this weekend. But if Havre or anyone else wants to claim the state championship, there's a good chance that team will have to go through the Whitefish Bulldogs to do it.
“They have to be considered the favorite until somebody beats them.” Huebsch said. “They are a really solid team, and they have everyone back from last year's team.”
Along with Whitefish, Hardin has to be considered one of the top teams heading into the tournament. Corvallis, which defeated a very highly touted Dillon team, is on a roll and could also be a team to watch out for this weekend, according to Huebsch.
“Dillon was 17-5 in the regular season and they are sitting at home,” Huebsch said. “So it just goes to show you that anything can happen in this game.”
Add to the fact that this tournament is a true double elimination, plus the reality that volleyball is truly a momentum game, it means that with a field as wide open as this one, anything can and probably will happen this weekend.
“We need to go out there and play aggressive,” Huebsch said. “We can't play tentative. We need to be aggressive and make something happen, and hopefully we can do that.”
Today's other first-round matches include Anaconda versus Glendive, Whitefish taking on Lewistown and Hardin against Corvallis.
The 2005 Class A state tournament will run through Saturday night. All the action will take place at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.