Heading into another tough tournament, the Havre High volleyball team really just wanted to win a handful of games and matches.
But the Central A Blue Ponies did a whole lot more than that, as they came just one win away from the championship match at the Electric City Classic in Great Falls on Friday and Saturday. The Ponies were the only Class A team in attendance, facing a very talented field of Class AA squads over the two days.
“We did great,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “I am so happy with how we did. I am so proud of the girls, we earned so much respect this weekend, and that is what our program needs. It wasn’t a fluke that we were winning this weekend, we were earning our points, and we were forcing teams to make errors. We were just playing like a championship team, and I hope this gives us the confidence to make it through the rest of our season.”
HHS entered the championship bracket on Saturday as the No. 4 seed. But the Ponies had to open up tournament play facing the No. 1 Helena Capital squad. Helena Capital defeated the Ponies 25-14 in game one, but HHS rebounded nicely. The Ponies earned a 25-16 win in game two, and a 25-19 win in game three, earning the upset and advancing into the semifinal.
“That was huge for us,” Skoyen said. “I thought after that win, no matter what happens I am going to be happy. That was a huge upset, and I know they were definitely overlooking us.”
But the Ponies amazing run would stop there. Once in the semifinals, Billings Skyview defeated the Ponies in three games. The Ponies won game one 26-24, but were then defeated 25-223 and 25-18. The Ponies led game game two 21-16 at one point, but slipped back into their old ways of not finishing when they have the chance. HHS was just four points away form playing in the championship match, but couldn’t hold on. Coach Skoyen said the Ponies continued to play well in the third game, but lost all momentum.
Facing Capital, the Ponies were led by Sarah Armstrong with 10 kills and three blocks. Lexi Olson and Sadie Seidel also had five kills each, while Olson also had one block and the teams only ace. Peyton Filius also had 20 assists, while Brandy Lambourne led with nine digs. Seidel also had eight digs.
Armstrong had 11 more kills against Skyview, while Gilman had 20 more assists and Lambourne had nine more digs to lead the team. And against Glacier, Armstrong had four kills, while Lacey Waid grabbed three. Olson also led with two of the teams’ five blocks, while Filius had 10 assists.
Following the loss to Skyview, Glacier then defeated the Ponies in two games by scores of 25-17 and 25-19 to end the Ponies’ weekend.
Friday’s pool play was what set the Ponies up to have a successful weekend. They faced seven very talented teams, and managed to win 6-of-14 games HHS was swept by Great Falls High in two games (20-8 and 20-25), but the Ponies followed by sweeping Billings West (20-19 and 20-10) and Missoula Big Sky (20-16 and 20-19). Helena High has won the tournament many times in years past, but the Ponies managed a split, while also splitting with Butte High. Billings Senior and Flathead also swept the Ponies.
Overall, the Ponies turned in a good outing this weekend, but gained a lot of steam on Friday in pool play.
In the seven matches played on Friday, the Ponies racked up 84 kills, 12 blocks, 68 assists, 93 digs and 21 aces. Armstrong led with 27 kills, while Olson followed with 26. Armstrong and Olson also both had four blocks, while Filius had 65 assists. Lambourne also had 44 digs and five aces to lead the team.
One of the Ponies main focuses going into the weekend was finishing games. They have given up the lead several times this season, and took a loss because of it. HHS did a much better job with that this time around, but did suffer the crushing loss in the semis after leading late in game two.
“My frustrations with us not finishing,” Skoyen said. “I think that will be something we remember for a long time. But I think it will end up working in our favor, us remembering that feeling and knowing it can happen to anybody. We have to take care of the ball and we have to finish.”
The Ponies will get back onto the court on Saturday, when they face Laurel and Hardin in Lewistown.
Friday (pool play)
Great Falls High def. Havre 20-8, 20-15
Havre def. Billings West 20-19, 20-10
Havre def. Big Sky 20-16, 20-19
Havre splits with Helena High 12-20, 20-9
Havre Splits with Butte high 17-20, 20-11
Billings Senior def. Havre 20-5, 20-10
Flathead def. Havre 20-17, 20-11
Havre’s Total Statistics – Kills 84 (Sarah Armstrong 27, Lexi Olson 26); Assists – 68 (Peyton Filius 65); Aces – 21 (Brandy Lambourne 5, Davee McLeod 4); Blocks – 12 (Sarah Armstrong 4, Lexi Olson 4, Martha Stocker 3); Digs – 93 (Brandy Lambourne 44, Sadie Seidel 15).
Havre def. Helena Capital
14-25, 25-16, 25-19
Havre – Kills 22 (Sarah Armstrong 10, Lexi Olson 5, Sadie Seidel 5); Assists – 20 (Peyton Filius 20); Aces – 1 (Lexi Olson 1); Blocks – 6 (Sarah Armstrong 3); Digs – 29 (Brandy Lambourne 9, Sadie Seidel 8).