Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
The Havre High volleyball team has three straight conference opponents on the road before the divisional tournament, and heading into the final stretch of their season, the Blue Ponies have gained even more momentum. On Friday night, the Central A Ponies got a win over the Conrad Cowgirls in three games at home. They defeated the Cowgirls 25-16, 25-10 and 25-12, giving the HHS seniors a win on their final home game of their careers. And on Saturday, the Ponies took to the road where they captured another conference win over the Butte Central Maroons. The Ponies defeated the Maroons in four games, 25-14, 25-23, 22-25 and 25-18. “It was good to play two different teams like that and be able to step up in both,” Havre High head coach Melanie Walker said. “Butte and Conrad are very different, and I think playing teams like that to prepare us for what this week has for us.” Teams often do things a little different on senior night. It’s meant to be fun and sort of a last hurrah. But the Ponies did something less for themselves and more for others, as they took the floor wearing a barrage of Breast Cancer Awareness pink. The Ponies didn’t settle for just a pink ribbon in their hair, they also donned large pink ribbons on their socks, and tiny white ribbons painted on their pink fingernails. The look meant something for themselves and turned it into something for others. “I was proud that, even though it was their senior night, they were big about wearing Breast Cancer Awareness pink,” Walker said. “On a night where they could have just made it about themselves, they chose to be supportive for the cure. That just shows the kind of people they are.” In game one on Friday, the Cowgirls played the Ponies close. Though the Ponies jumped out to a 7-2 lead they couldn’t gain any ground. The Cowgirls stayed in contention and kept within five points of the Ponies for most of the game. And it wasn’t until the Ponies took a 17-12 lead that they were finally able to get some separation and get the win on an 8-4 run. “It is always difficult to play against some of these Class B and C teams,” Walker said. “It’s hard to step up and be competitive against smaller schools like that, and it didn’t feel like we were on our game.” Game two also started out close, but the Ponies were always in control. They took a 12-7 lead, and, with Madison Ruff behind the service line, turned it into an 18-8 lead on a 6-1 run. The Ponies found a groove, and used another run of 7-2 to gain another win in game two. “We still weren’t ourselves,” Walker said. “We didn’t seem like we were really into it. But serving tough really helped us out a lot.” The groove they found in game two continued in the third and final game of the night for the Ponies. They played better, had some fun and even had a chance to do things a little differently. Cali Freier started as the setter, giving Hayley Donovan a chance to play as an outside hitter, something Donovan hasn’t been able to do in a while. “I think switching things around like that on their senior night motivated them,” Walker said. “And Cali Freier did a nice job setting. She had nice hands and just did a great job.” After taking a 10-6 lead, Mary Kaercher used 14 serves to help propel the Ponies out to a 23-7 lead. And though the Cowgirls added five more points late in the game, the Ponies quickly closed out the Cowgirls with a 25-12 win. “This meant a lot to us,” Donovan said. “We’ve been together and played together for four years, so to cap off the year with a win at home feels really awesome. And it gives us a lot of confidence we can take into the postseason, and into the rest of our regular season.” As the season draws closer to an end, any win is a good one. But it was also good for the nine graduating seniors, who dominated the game and the stat sheet. Morgan McCann led with 11 kills, while Kaercher added four. Donovan added 11 assists to her season totals, and Freier accounted for eight. Karla Hellegaard and Ruff both had two aces, and Holly Cartwright continued to put up good numbers with 10 of the Ponies' 19 digs. “All that we were trying to accomplish as coaches was that it was going to be memorable night for the seniors,” Walker said. “It wasn’t the way we normally play and it wasn’t our best match, but they were still having fun and we got a win out of it. This is going to be a memorable season for our seniors.” HHS had a quick turnaround in play, but found a way to get another win over the Butte Central Maroons on Saturday in Butte. But the Ponies didn’t have it easy. The Maroons are much improved, and after the Ponies dominated game one, the Maroons almost pushed the match to five games. “Butte is a solid team,” Walker said. “And it is good to see that when we come up against a good team we are able to step up and really show what we’ve got.” In game one the Ponies played very well. They came out strong, were focused and everybody was communicating with each other. They also dominated the serve, and took the Maroon's defense out of the game. “It was the way a coach would want a team to come out,” Walker said. “They probably came out and played the best they have in a very long time. It was nearly flawless and it was great to see we are still improving.” But in the second and third games, the Maroons captured the momentum. They have improved immensely on their block, and it showed. They used a triple block, and it really hurt the Ponies' hitting out of the middle, almost shutting it down completely. The Ponies were able to narrowly escape with a game two win, but game three belonged to the Maroons. And the momentum they captured almost pushed them to a win in game four. “I was a little unsure of the fourth game,” Walker said. “With how we started I didn’t know how it was going to go.” The Maroons jumped out to take the lead in game four and they were playing very well. But after figuring out the Maroon's triple block in the middle, the Ponies came back. The Ponies found a way to hit from the sides. It was effective and shut down the Maroon's defense, leading to the Pony victory. In the match, Hellegaard had 19 of the Ponies' 46 kills, while McCann had 13. Donovan earned 31 assists, while McCann also had five of the Ponies' 11 aces. Cartwright led again with eight digs, and Hellegaard and Kaercher both had two blocks a piece. With the two wins over the weekend, the Ponies have increased their records to 12-3 overall and 7-0 in the Central A. And with just three conference matches remaining in the season, the Ponies will attempt to uphold their No. 1 standing and finish undefeated in the conference. On Thursday the Ponies will take to the road, where they will face the Lewistown Golden Eagles. And on Saturday the Ponies will remain on the road, where they will face both the Livingston Rangers and Belgrade Panthers in Browning.