By Tiffany L. Rehbein
With just one conference game remaining, the Havre Blue Pony volleyball team is running on a triangle train of thought earn the regular season title, seal the No. 1 spot in the North Subdivision, and spell it out to the Central A, "We can't beat Havre."
All the Ponies have to do to seal No. 1 is beat the Park High Rangers at Livingston on Friday.
And that is something the Ponies have done every time the two teams have met during at least the past five years.
"We are really looking forward to Friday," Havre head coach Bill Huebsch said. "If these girls play like they did against Lewistown, they will be fine. That will be just one more disappointment for Lewistown."
Havre defeated Lewistown 15-5, 15-10, 15-12 last weekend and, with the win, knocked Lewistown from first and moved itself into first place in the North.
Lewistown, who is finished with its conference schedule, is 8-2 and 15-6 overall. Lewistown's two conference losses came against Livingston and Havre.
Havre, with one conference game remaining, is 7-2 and 15-4. Havre would win the tie-breaker between the two teams. The Blue Ponies' two conference losses came against Lewistown and Belgrade. Belgrade is No. 1 in the South Subdivision.
"We just outplayed them (Lewistown) and we need to do that again," Huebsch said.
The Blue Ponies defeated the Rangers 15-10, 3-15, 15-11, 15-10 when the teams met on Jan. 23 at Havre.
Since that time, the Ponies have tabulated a 7-8 record, losing only to Class AA power CMR at Great Falls. The Ponies have won seven-straight matches.
Serving is a strong plus for the Ponies, with Lisa Wagner never missing, and Erin Patera and Tiffany Shrauger guaranteed to drop in unstoppable aces.
Although the Ponies served just 88 percent against Lewistown, they had 12 aces led by Patera with five and Shrauger with two.
Wagner, during the course of two matches last weekend, served 20-straight good balls. She leads the league in serving percentage.
Defense is also key to the Ponies' offense. The girls had 74 digs against the Eagles.
Shrauger collected 24 digs, more than 30 percent of the team's total. Patera tallied 16 in the contest.
Patera and sophomore Amy Ranes had a combined seven solo blocks against a strong Lewistown front line. The Ponies had 19 total blocks in the match.
To win against Livingston, the Ponies will need to continue what they have been doing control the ball on defense and execute the offense.
Offensively against Lewistown, Patera and Ranes had 16 kills apiece, while Shrauger played strong from the outside and tallied 11 kills.
Kirsten Kuka had 16 assists, and Wagner added 15 in the effort.
Terra Olson came off the bench and played well defensively.
Jana McPherson also served well against Browning, with three aces and 12 strong balls.
But Livingston's Angela Bausch and Leanne Sudbeck will need to be controlled at the net on Friday.
"We need to slow them down when they are in the front row, and, when they are in the back row, we will need to take advantage of the situation," Huebsch said.
In addition to the conference game Friday, which starts at 7 p.m. at Park High School, the Ponies will get one last chance to see the Central A teams at the Windy City Classic on Saturday.
Pool play will be held in the morning, with tournament play beginning at about 2:30 p.m.
Anaconda, Dillon, Butte Central, Class AA Billings Skyview, and Livingston are in Pool A.
Havre, Belgrade, Lewistown, Class AA Billings Senior, and Browning are in Pool B.
Havre will face Browning at 9 a.m., Belgrade at 10:30 a.m., Billings Senior at noon, and Lewistown at 1:30 p.m.
The Ponies have swept Browning five times this season. They dropped a conference match to Belgrade to open the season, but defeated them in pool play in an ensuing tournament.
Havre split with Billings Senior at an invitational at Great Falls, and the Ponies have a 3-3 record against Lewistown this season, including splitting conference games.
"This will be a nice tune-up for divisional," Huebsch said.
The Ponies will use the single-elimination tournament to see any offensive or defensive changes the other teams might have made during the year, and also to get the Blue Pony girls a few more reps in a live-game situation, Huebsch said.
"We are out to win Friday and have fun Saturday," Huebsch said.