After a long offseason, it seems like an eternity since the Havre High volleyball program last played. But with a very busy weekend ahead of it, the Blue Ponies will waste no time getting some matches under their belt.
Today the Central A Ponies will open the season with two conference opponents standing in their way. Playing in Belgrade, the Ponies will face the Panthers and the Livingston Rangers.
But that is not all the competition the Ponies will see, as HHS will also turnaround and compete in the Windy City Classic on Saturday in Livingston. While at the Windy City Classic, the Ponies will run into stiff competition like Browning, Lewistown, Gardner, Bridger, and Manhattan in pool play.
The Ponies will be on the court a lot this weekend, and the girls are looking forward to it.
“The girls are very anxious,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “This is the longest we have gone without playing a game during the preseason, so I just know the girls are ready after three full weeks of practice. But I always think this is the weekend that we can see who we are in the conference. It is a challenging weekend like always, but it is good to see where we stand.”
The Ponies only lost a small handful of varsity leaders from a year ago, the biggest impact player being Sammy Evans (outside hitter). But with the talent the Ponies brought in this year, they shouldn’t have any problems fillings the holes and running their offense, hopefully with a high level of success.
Lexi Olson should fit in just fine as the Ponies newest player to be labeled a hard hitter. She had a strong second half last season, and has come on even stronger over the summer. But Sarah Armstrong will also be a presence in the middle, while Peyton Filius, Brandy Lambourne, Lacey Waid, Breck Don, Aubrea Worm, Jacinta Finneman and Ellery Bresler keep the Pony attack well rounded. Davee McLeod also returns for the Ponies, and should keep the opposing offense honest with her standout defense.
And while it is important to just play well early on, the Ponies are also looking to use their abilities to play their style of volleyball this weekend.
The Rangers are young this season, and lost a handful of girls that took a dominating presence in the middle with them. They always seem to reload, but the Ponies may have more success hitting against the Rangers this year. And for the Panthers, they are led by senior Jordan Porter, who is known to lineup as the middle, setter, and outside hitter in any given match. She is a solid all around player, and the Ponies will have to know where she is on the court at all times. Dylan Fowler also anchors the Belgrade defense.
Add the different styles of play from the teams HHS will see at the Windy City Classic, and the Ponies will have to stick to their game plan to be successful.
“We have matured a lot in all aspects of the game from last year,” Skoyen said. “We have been working on speeding up our offense. We have been able to run a fast offense in different situations, but now I have the confidence to run quicks in any situations because it is just as good as our regular offense. We are also going to our back row more, and I feel that is one of our strengths.
“We don’t have any excuses this year,” Skoyen added. “And as long as we can keep our focus and look at our goals for the season, I see good thinks coming out of this year.”
HHS is just more well rounded this year. They have skill in every position and have added a lot to their offensive arsenal. They are an early Central A favorite, and will look to take huge strides in their first weekend out.
“We were finally meshing as a team in the last weekends of the season,” Skoyen said. “And right now we are better than we were then, so any coach would be happy to be that team starting out.”
The Ponies will face Belgrade and Livingston today in Belgrade. The Ponies will also face a whole pool of talent at the Windy City Classic on Saturday, including Browning, Lewistown, Gardiner, Bridger and Manhattan.
The Blue Ponies are also on the road next weekend. They'll participate in the annual Electric City Classic in Great Falls.