By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Wyoming unrolled the blue carpet and the Havre High School volleyball team will prance upon it in the 1999 Casper International Volleyball Festival.
The volleyball tournament, that will be held in Casper, Wyo., will feature Rocky Mountain area high schools plus an international team from China.
Its just an honor for us to be asked to play at a tournament like this, said head coach Bill Huebsch. To go down and play top caliber teams will only make these girls stronger, better players.
The Blue Ponies, arguably one of the best volleyball teams in Montana, capped off a stellar 1998-99 season by bringing home their second straight Class A state championship trophy.
Further, the girls finished 10-0 in conference play, 29-2 overall, beat the No. 1 Class AA team from Great Falls and crucified Glendive 15-0 three games in a row in the opening match at the state tournament in March.
This is kind of bragging, but were getting noticed outside of where were located, Huebsch said. Just to receive that kind of recognition is a great privilege.
The team traveling to Casper, however, will be missing some key players. The Ponies lost four starters to graduation and those girls cannot play due to tournament regulations.
But the 10 girls who will travel are currently practicing for the Big Sky State Games and are ready to compete at Wyoming.
Were pretty excited, Huebsch said. I kind of told them the specifics on who was going to be there and were preparing.
Three Wyoming teams, one team from Denver, Colo., one team from South Dakota and an international team from the Peoples Republic of China will compete against the Blue Ponies.
But Huebsch said the team to watch will be the girls from Bellevue West High School in Omaha, Neb., who have won the tournament five or six times.
Playing in this tournament is going to teach my girls a lot about sportsmanship, Huebsch said. Its really a unique opportunity, competing against top quality teams. Its an experience no one else is going to get.
But the Blue Ponies will gain more than experience. It will be a chance for camaraderie among teammates. An opportunity for an intimate lesson in life to be learned and a moment for each girl to experience a reward for their hard work and dedication for playing volleyball in Havre, Montana.
Its nice to win and lose, but theres so many more things taught, there are life lessons that come out of sports, Huebsch said.
Teri Sherrill, Jana McPherson, Erin Patera, Kirsten Kuka, Alyssa Matter, Tiffany Shrauger, Samantha Velk, Lisa Wagner, Jayla McPherson and LaShae Michels have been working hard to raise money this summer through car washes and fund raisers.
Local business support has also been great to insure that the girls have the funds to travel not only to the state games, but also to this tournament, Huebsch said.
Awards will be given to the top three teams in each division at the tournament that will be held July 18-20.