Heading into every season the Havre High volleyball team strives to improve in every aspect of the game. It is the same story this year, as Blue Ponies look to take their talented squad even further into the postseason.
Last season the Central A Ponies took an early exit from the divisional tournament. After defeating the Browning Indians in their first match, the Ponies fell to Belgrade in five games, in their second match. The five-game match could have gone either way, but unfortunately for the Ponies, the young Ponies at the time, it went the way of the Panthers.
But this year the Ponies return with more talent and a bigger hunger for success.
“Last year was a good learning year,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “But this year we don’t have any excuses and I am good with that. I don’t like excuses, we have the same ability as everybody else and we just have to work harder and want it more.”
Paighton Gilman and Christina Mack will not be easy to replace, but the Ponies have the young talent to try. Gilman was a dominating force in the middle and sparked the Pony offense. And Mack led the defense, time and time again in digs a season ago.
But seniors Sammy Evans, Juletta Don and Michaelea Boles lead the talented group of returning athletes this season. Boles took a season off from volleyball last year, but should be a major contributor this year.
And with Evans and Don being standout players a year ago, they should look to lead the team again.
“(Evans and Don) always display leadership,” Skoyen said. “And what I really like about these two is that they are always positive. They are positive whether we are up by 20 or down by 20 and they are such good team players and they want to win. They have a competitive edge and that’s important form captains.”
Evans will spark the offense with her power as an outside hitter, and will be accented by the hitting of Lexi Olson and Sadie Seidel. Evans will hit from the left side, while Olson and Seidel will rotate on the right.
Don will take control of the middle for the Ponies, and is also surrounded by talent, making the Ponies middle game a huge strength this season. Sarah Armstrong and Kaylie Gilman will help out in the middle, and once they settle in they should be a force.
“Our middles are doing really well right now,” Skoyen said. “It is a lot of repetitions we have to do to make sure we find that niche and to find where they are connecting, but once we find that I think our middles are going to be unstoppable.”
Davee McLeod and Payton Filius also return for the Ponies as the setters this season, as well as Brandy Lambourne who will be the libero.
“We are at a huge benefit,” Skoyen said. “All of these girls are pretty much returners.”
Last year the Blue Ponies struggled a lot with their serve receive. This season it isn’t quite where it needs to be either, but Skoyen says it is much improved from a year ago. And if the Ponies can shake the cobwebs early, they can look to contend with the two league powerhouses, Lewistown and Livingston. Lewistown took the state title a year ago.
But the Ponies schedule will test them all the way through the season. Havre will face opponents like, Belgrade, Park, Hardin, Laurel, Choteau, Conrad and Browning both home and away. But Havre will also see extremely good talent at the Windy City Classic and Electric City Classic, two tournaments that always get the Ponies season started with some of the best talent they will face.
Friday the Ponies will start their season in Belgrade, where they will face the Panthers and Livingston Rangers in league play. The Ponies will also turnaround and attend the Windy City Classic in Livingston on Saturday.