By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Havre Blue Pony volleyball team will get a little taste of some scrappy play this weekend at Browning.
Havre (2-2, 9-4) will face the Anaconda Copperheads (0-4, 0-8), the Browning Indians (0-4, 0-11), and the Butte Central Maroons (1-5, 3-9) in conference action Friday and Saturday at Browning.
"We need these wins," Havre head coach Bill Huebsch said. "You can't go in there and overlook anyone. We need to be ready to play."
The Blue Ponies defeated the Indians 11-3, 11-4 in pool play at the Electric City Invitational at Great Falls in January. They have not met the other teams.
"Browning is better now than they have been in the last couple of years," Huebsch said.
Anaconda, under the direction of a new coach, gave the Park High Rangers a good match, although they lost in the end last weekend.
Butte Central is traditionally a tough team defensively. The Maroons rarely let a ball hit the floor without someone touching it.
"Butte Central is typically scrappy," Huebsch said. "All the teams will play pretty unorthodox, with balls coming over on the first and second touch."
The Blue Ponies hope to accomplish at least two things this weekend -- improve their side-out offense, and negotiate more focused defensive pressure.
"I want to be able to take the ball over from the other team immediately," Huebsch said.
During the past four matches, at some points in time, the Blue Ponies have dug themselves up to a six-point deficit, before creating a strong offensive rally.
"Defensively, I would like to see us a little more focused," Huebsch said. "With this brand of volleyball, I would like to see us be ready for anything."
If the conference continues the way it has begun, the Blue Ponies face a strong chance of meeting Butte Central in the opening round of the Central A divisional tournament in March.
The Blue Ponies are coming off a split at Great Falls last weekend. The Ponies fell to defending Class AA state champion C.M. Russell in three straight games, but went on to defeat Great Falls High in five games.
Erin Patera, a senior, was tough offensively for Havre. She led the team with 44 kills, 37 digs, and five blocks on the weekend.
Senior Tiffany Shrauger was solid defensively. She tallied 33 digs and dropped in a team-high five aces on the weekend.
Strong serving is no stranger to senior Lisa Wagner, either, as she leads the Central A in serve percentage, having missed only three all season. Her last missed serve came against Chinook on Jan. 13.
Wagner led the Ponies with 40 assists last weekend.
Amy Ranes, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, had 18 kills to help at the net for Havre.
Senior Jana McPherson had four kills and one ace, while sister Jayla chipped in two blocks, and senior Kirsten Kuka added 20 assists and one ace.