By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Havre Blue Pony volleyball team could be the best thing to walk into the Central A divisional tournament this weekend at Dillon.
The Blue Ponies are riding on the wings of an eight-match winning streak, including placing No. 1 at the Windy Classic, an invitational that hosted the entire Central A plus two Class AA schools, last Saturday.
The Blue Ponies have the No. 1 team serving percentage in the division at 90.37.
The Blue Ponies boast the No. 1 player with the highest individual serving percentage in Lisa Wagner, who serves 97.98 percent.
The Blue Ponies also ring with bravado with the Nos. 1 and 2 defensive players Erin Patera and Tiffany Shrauger.
Patera is No. 1 with 237 digs, averaging 2.95 per game, while Shrauger is second with 237 digs, averaging 2.91 digs per game.
Patera is also the No. 1 ace-getter in the league with 78 on the season. Shrauger is the sixth-best, with a killer 60 on the year.
The No. 2 kill-collecter in the league is returning All-Stater Patera, who has 282 on the season, averaging 3.29 per game.
Amy Ranes is ranked 10th, averaging 2.06 kills per game. Ranes is also ninth in the Central A with 34 blocks on the year.
Patera is seventh, with 38 blocks.
Wagner and Kirsten Kuka are in the middle of the league from their setting positions, averaging 3.95 and 3.70 assists per game, respectively.
With their fourth-straight regular season conference title tucked neatly behind them, the Blue Ponies (19-4, 8-2) are looking for their second consecutive divisional title this weekend.
The Ponies are defending back-to-back State A champions.
With a conference win over Livingston (13-10, 6-4) last Friday, the Ponies vaulted into first place in the North Subdivision, a spot they had difficulty securing all season.
"We just need to continue doing what we've been doing all season control the ball and play good defense," Havre head coach Bill Huebsch said.
Defensively, seniors Patera, Shrauger, and Teri Sherrill collect 80 percent of the balls sent over the net.
"I think if we play the way that I know we can, I know we can win it," Huebsch said. "We've been practicing all year for these last two weeks."
The Ponies will face the fourth-seeded Anaconda Copperheads (4-14, 2-8) from the South Subdivision. Last weekend at the Windy City Classic, the Copperheads went 2-2 in pool play, before being knocked out of the tournament by Belgrade.
Belgrade (20--5, 9-1) is the No. 1 seed from the South. The Panthers handed the Blue Ponies their first conference loss in two years via a three-game sweep during the first weekend of action.
Belgrade's Kristin Bechtold, Lynn Craver, and Haley Barclay are all fine players for the Panthers.
The Panthers will face the fourth-seeded North Browning Indians (1-18, 0-10) to open the tournament at 10 a.m. at the B.W. Lodge at Dillon.
The No. 2 North Fergus County Golden Eagles (16-7, 8-2) will face the No. 2 South Butte Central Maroons (5-15, 2-8) at noon.
Janalee Stokken, Lindsay Garcia, and Erica Daniels could all be dangerous at the net for Lewistown.
One match to watch could be the second-seed South Dillon Beavers (10-8, 5-5) taking on the third-seeded North Park Rangers (11-8, 5-3) at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Livingston won each matchup throughout the season, but the higher-seeded Beavers gave the Rangers a run, most recently, at the Windy City Classic where they lost a 13-12 decision.
Livingston's Angela Bausch is strong at the net and has a fine setter in Becky Hancock.
JeniferKearns and Lynsey Monaco of Dillon are both tough on the net and defensively.
But anything can happen at tournament time.
Throughout the season, Belgrade beat Havre, Lewistown beat Havre, Lewistown beat Belgrade, Havre beat Lewistown, Havre beat Livingston twice, and Livingston beat Lewistown, proving any team could beat any other at any time.
But even the lower-seeded teams should not be overlooked.
Although Anaconda is No. 4 in the South, the Copperheads beat both Dillon and Butte Central in pool play last weekend.
And Browning held, at one point, a 13-6 lead over Lewistown in pool play, before falling 16-14 last weekend.
All games will be played at the Beaverhead High School gymnasium at Dillon, running Thursday through Saturday.