The Central A volleyball tournament is right around the corner. And with three Central A Conference matches left on their schedule, the Havre Blue Ponies have plenty of work to do.
And while they may not have been expecting it heading into their trip to Browning this weekend, the fact that the Ponies got pushed to five games may turn out to be just what they needed. On Saturday in Browning, the Ponies beat the Indians for the second time in as many weeks. But after sweeping Browning in Havre last Saturday, the Indians made the Ponies go the distance the second time around as Havre won by scores of 25-17, 25-11, 22-25, 19-25 and 15-8.
And while Havre played some of its best volleyball, then suffered setbacks, Pony head coach Melanie Skoyen said the five-game win was an important step in the Ponies building towards the postseason.
“It was good for us to play five games because we haven’t had to in a conference match yet,” Skoyen said. “So it was good to get that experience. And what was also good for us was to see just how quickly things can change, and just because you win the first two games, it doesn’t mean you’ve won the match. So that was a great learning experience for us.”
And the Ponies did learn.
Havre dominated the Indians in the first two games of Saturday’s tilt, just like the Ponies did last weekend in Havre. But this time, Browning didn’t go away so quickly, and all of a sudden, HHS found itself in a dogfight and a decisive fifth game.
But again, positives came out of going five.
“We played so well those first two games,” Skoyen said. “The second game may have been the best we’ve played all season. We were just playing so well. But then, we may have got a little over confident, maybe we thought it was over, but Browning played really well and we just went flat.
But what was really good to see, and what I’m most proud of is how we played in the fifth,” she added. “Before we went out there, I told the girls, Browning has all the momentum in the world right now, so we have to take it to them right away. We have to take it back from them. And that’s exactly what the girls did. We got up 13-3 at one points, so I think we saw exactly what we need to do in a situation like that and that’s why it was a really good match for us.”
Senior Paighton Gilman has been back from injury for some time now for the Ponies, but Skoyen put her back in the middle on Saturday and she didn’t disappoint. Gilman racked up a match-high 14 kills, as well as totaling five aces and a pair of blocks.
“Paighton played so well,” Skoyen said. “This was my first time moving her back to the middle. I felt she was finally healthy enough to play there and she played phenomenal. She had a great match.”
Sammy Evans and Sadie Seidel were also key for the Ponies. Evans totaled 13 kills and two blocks, while Seidel had 12 kills, four aced and 10 digs in an all-around great performance. Jaclyn Evans paced the HHS defense with 12 digs, while senior Christina Mack had 10. Evans also had 40 of Havre’s 42 assists.
Escaping Browning with a victory keeps Havre in second place in the Central A heading into its final home stand of the season. The have three conference matches this week, starting with rival Lewistown on Thursday night in Havre. HHS also hosts Belgrade and Livingston on Saturday.
“Going five games against Browning was a good thing for us,” Skoyen said. “I’m really pleased with how we stepped up in the fifth game and we learned a lot. I’m proud of the girls and I think it will really benefit us over the next few weeks.”
The Ponies host Lewistown at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. Havre will celebrate senior night Saturday during its triangular with the the Belrgade Panthers and Livingston Rangers.