It is still early, and the Havre High volleyball program has yet to play its first match of a new season, but the Blue Ponies already have very high hopes this season.
A year ago the C
entral A Blue Ponies finished third in the conference. It was a strong finish, but the Central A Ponies failed to advance past the Divisional Tournament, suffering a season ending loss to conference rival Lewistown. But with limited losses to graduation, and a great returning group, the Ponies are confident they can take the program to the next level.
Only three seniors vacated the roster, including Juletta Don (middle), Michaela Boles and the hard-hitting Sammy Evans (outside hitter). Evans leaves the biggest gap in the Ponies’ lineup, but with all of the returning talent, head coach Melanie Skoyen is already confident she has the player to step up and handle the job.
“Lexi Olson has came on and really stepped up,” Skoyen said. “And I think she will be able to fill Sammy’s (Evans) shoes very well. She has typically been a role player for us, but she is really starting to step up. She is hitting on the outside, and you can tell she has worked out this summer and is in great shape.”
But Olson is just the tip of the iceberg for the Ponies' varsity talent.
Also returning is Sadie Seidel (outside hitter), Sarah Armstrong (middle), Davee McLeod (defense), Peyton Filius (setter), Brandy Lambourne (libero), Lacey Waid, Breck Don, Aubrea Worm, Jacinta Finneman and Ellery Bresler. HHS is also happy to welcome in Martha Stocker, a transfer who should fit in very well in the middle alongside Armstrong.
The conference is always tough, so the Ponies are going to need their varsity veteran talent to succeed. And the rest of the regular season schedule will challenge HHS as well.
Lewistown and Belgrade always house very tough squads, but Havre is an early favorite as well. Lewistown lost double digit seniors and won’t be their typical powerhouse self and Belgrade always brings in a lot of solid numbers. But coach Skoyen knows her Ponies can challenge for the top position if they play well and run their offense the way they know how, playing well rounded and consistent, and focusing on ball control.
“As long as we are demanding more from ourselves and our passes,” Skoyen said. “Then we can run a quicker offense and not just have to set it to the outside every time. That’s what we did in the past, but it’s tough not to get blocked every time doing that. We have good hitters all around so we want to utilize them.”
HHS will also face top talent at the Windy City Classic in Livingston and the Electric City Classic in Great Falls. And the Ponies will also face tough non conference teams like Hardin, Laurel, Choteau, CMR and Conrad, being tested from the beginning to the end of the season.
Divisionals will be in Belgrade on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, and will run in Bozeman from No. 8-Nov. 10.
Havre will open the season on Friday in Belgrade, when they face the Panthers and Livingston Rangers in two early conference matches. The Ponies will also play in the windy city classic on Saturday in Livingston.
The last couple of years the Ponies have been young and still in the process of molding and learning. But even with some youth on the roster this season, for the most part, the roster is filled with players with extensive varsity experience, and the Ponies are looking to turn in anther successful season because of it.
“It was hard after losing those nine seniors a couple years ago,” Skoyen said. “We had to fill in and figure out what to do with every position, but now we have no excuses. We have a bunch of juniors and seniors and have no excuses. I don’t think we really have any weak spots, so we should do well this year.”
The Ponies will open the season on Friday in Belgrade.