Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
When it was all said and done, the Havre High volleyball team finished third at the Class A state tournament, yet, had just a few more breaks gone their way, the Blue Ponies could have walked away state champions. After defeating Dillon and Whitefish in back-to-back matches on Thursday, the Ponies squared off against Lewistown in the semifinals for a berth in the state championship match on Friday afternoon in Bozeman. Lewistown had beaten Havre in the four previous meetings between the two teams this season, but the Ponies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-23 win in game one, followed by a 25-22 victory in game two. However the Eagles refused to go down without a fight. Lewistown forced the match into a fifth game after winning games three and four by the scores of 25-18 and 25- 20. Then in the fifth game, the Ponies grabbed a 10-6 lead, only to see Lewistown score six consecutive points to escape with a dramatic five-game victory. “It was definitely disappointing the way that it turned out because we played so well in the first two games against Lewistown,” HHS head coach Bill Huebsch said. “We just weren’t able to put the ball down when we needed. We have had a problem all year long with putting teams away and it came back to bite us again.” The win meant that even if Havre could force a rematch against the Eagles, the Ponies would need to beat them twice in a row to win the state title. Singe Hillson was tremendous in the loss notching 19 kills to go along with an incredible nine blocks. Katie Mariani was dominant defensively with 32 digs in the match. Chelsea Harper also pitched in with 40 assists. LeAnn Quinlan had 15 kills and 28 digs to spark the Eagles to victory. Arielle Allen added 12 blocks and Brianna Boettger finished with 54 assists. The Havre loss setup a rematch in the second semifinal with three-time state champion Whitefish. Once again the Ponies appeared to have the match under control after winning the first two games by scores of 28-26 and 25-11 to take a commanding 2-0 advantage in the match. Unfortunately, the Havre lead evaporated quickly with the Bulldogs winning two games by scores of 25-18 and 25-11 to push Havre to a fifth game. It looked like HHS had successfully dodged a bullet after the Ponies went up 14-9 in the deciding game. But the Bulldogs pulled out a miraculous come-from-behind victory by scoring eight straight points to claim victory from the jaws of defeat. “Again we just couldn’t put the ball down in the last game,” Huebsch said. “I just can’t really explain what happened. You just can’t hit as low of a percentage as we hit and expect to win. Not to take anything away from White- fish because they are a great team, but it’s just unfortunate because we were so close to being in the state championship two times and we couldn’t finish either match.” Hillson had 10 kills in the loss for the Ponies. Mariani had another impressive defensive showing with 28 digs. Harper also added 29 assists and Karla Hellegaard added five blocks. Brielle Menegazzi dominated the net finishing the match with a total of 32 kills and two aces. Ashley Ferda also pitched in with 43 digs. “Signe had an outstanding weekend for us,” Huebsch said. “Katie also had a great weekend. She played incredible defense, she only missed one serve in 81 chances and she was very good in serve-receive. She was just tremendous this weekend. “It was disappointing the way things ended, but I am still very proud of this team,” he added. “The girls are a great group of kids. I know they probably wish they could go back and do things over again, but the reality is that you can’t. They should be very proud of what they did. They gave us everything they had and that is all that I can ask. I am really proud of everything we achieved this season.” The Ponies finished third in the state tournament and ended the season with a 20-9 overall record. As expected, Lewistown went on to capture the Class A state championship on Saturday afternoon.