Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
The wait is finally over for the Havre High volleyball team because after a long season, the time for the Class A state volleyball tournament has finally arrived. The Blue Ponies (19-7) earned a berth in the state tournament by way of their second-place finish last weekend at the Central A divisional tournament. Havre lost to Lewistown in the tournament championship. But now the Ponies sole focus is their bid for the state title, which begins today at 4 p.m. in Bozeman against Dillon, who is the top-seeded team from the Southwest A division. “The kids have been looking forward to getting to the state tournament all year long and now that it's finally here, they are just really excited to get out there and play,” HHS head coach Bill Huebsch said. “Dillon is a solid team, but when you get to this level every team you play is going to be solid because they got to this point for a reason, it wasn’t by accident.” Dillon was on the doorstep of a state championship last season, falling to Whitefish in the championship game to finish as the 2006 runner-up. So the Beavers will be looking to take the next step this season starting with their opening-round game with the Ponies. The Beavers are a tall, athletic team that will be led into state tournament play by outside hitter Susanne Rehse. Helping to solidify the Beavers front row is blocker Hayley Pettit. Dillon also has a strong back row, which is highlighted by standout defender and server Shandi Samson. Other key contributors in the back row for the Beavers are Kelsie Nordahl and Anna Brammer. The Ponies answer to the Beavers' talented front row is dominant middle blocker Signe Hillson. Hillson, a senior, leads the team in both kills and blocks and will be a force in the middle that Dillon has to reckon with. Other key contributors for HHS are Katie Mariani and Steph Stremcha, who were both named to the all-tournament team at the Central A divisional. Senior setter Chelsea Harper is a big key to the success of the Ponies’ outstanding front row that also features Mariah Armstrong and Karla Hellegaard. “You know Signe has been solid for us all season long and we are definitely going to need a great effort from her,” Huebsch said. “We also will have to win the battle of serve-receive. And we need to continue to pass the ball as well as we have. All of those things are important and if we play the way we are capable I think we have the ability to make a run in this tournament.” Whitefish, the team that defeated Dillon for the state championship in 2006, will open its title defense against the top-seeded team from the Eastern A division Miles City at 2 p.m. White- fish is the top-seeded team from the Western A division. The winner of Havre/Dillon will play the winner of Whitefish and Miles City on tonight at 6 p.m. The loser of each match will play on Friday at noon in a loser-out match. Lewistown, the top-seeded team from the Central A division, will face off against Anaconda in the openinground today at noon. Anaconda is the second-seeded team from the Southwest Division. The Eagles, who are a perennial power and are the prohibitive favorite to win the state title, should receive a challenge from the Copperheads, who won a match in the state tournament last season. The other opening-round match will feature two teams that were not in the state tournament last season, as Western A Division champion Libby will go toe-to-toe with Laurel, the second-seeded team from the Eastern A Division at 10 am. “I think that this year the tournament is pretty wide open,” Huebsch said. “Every team that made it here has to be pretty good, but at the state tournament anything can happen. “We are just going to take it one game at a time,” he added. “I think that we have gotten better as the season has went along and hopefully we will play our best volleyball this weekend. I think that if we play up to our ability we have a good chance to make a run. We are just going to go out and give it everything we have and see what happens.” The tournament is a true doubleelimination tournament, which means a team must lose two matches before being eliminated from state title contention. The tournament will run through Saturday in Bozeman and the first championship match will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday. If a second championship match is necessary it will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday. All matches will be played at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the campus of Montana State University.