After a trip to Livingston two weeks ago, chances of making a trip to the state tournament were in doubt for the Havre High volleyball team.
But the Ponies shattered any and all doubts with four straight wins at the Central A Divisional Volleyball Tournament in Anaconda, taking the title and leaving their opponents in the dust.
"We knew we had to flat out play," Havre head coach Lacy Anderson said. "And they stepped it up a ton. They all played so well. They all played together.
"It was so cool. I am so proud of them."
Havre started the tournament kind of shaky, Anderson said, defeating Dillon in four games, 11-15, 15-10, 16-14, 15-6.
"That was one of our toughest matches," Anderson said.
The Ponies hit .178 as a team against Dillon, something Anderson said she was very happy with.
"All weekend we hit really well," she said.
Julie Wagner led the team with three aces and 15 digs. Amy Ranes started the weekend with strong play at the net with 20 kills and 3.5 blocks.
Just when things were starting to look good for Havre, the Belgrade Panthers took the momentum away. Belgrade won the first two games with Havre 15-1, 15-0 and led 7-0 in the third game before the Ponies scored. With her team being outscored 37-1, Anderson said she tried everything to get her team back on track and finally something clicked.
"You don't learn a whole lot from winning," Anderson said. "You learn more from losing and I think they learned a lot from those two games."
The Ponies came back to win the third game 15-13 and then took the final two 15-13, 15-13. Anderson said in the fourth game her team was leading 14-7 and got stuck on 14.
"The scores weren't as close as they look," she said. "Belgrade just chipped away."
Havre had eight aces in the game, led by Wagner with four and Ranes with three. Ranes' stellar performance at the net continued with 21 kills and 3.5 blocks. Jeanna McPherson also added 3.5 blocks and Suek added 12 kills. As a team, the Ponies hit .176 in the game.
Facing Park in the semifinals, a team who controlled Havre in Livingston two weeks ago, the Ponies knew they would automatically go to state with a win.
With that in mind, the Ponies came out and defeated the Rangers 15-13, 15-5, 15-13. Havre once again played from behind, down by seven early in third game, but were still able to came back for the win.
Suek hit .500 on the game with 12 kills and Jeanna McPherson was perfect with seven kills and no hitting errors. Ranes led in kills with 13. Jayla McPherson had four blocks with sister Jeanna adding three.
Park battled back through the consolation bracket in the true double-elimination tournament, to face Havre again in the championship game.
Anderson said she told her team before the championship game, "We're going to state, what we place is up to you." And to join in the fun, Anderson said she agreed to wear matching ribbons in her hair, just like each member of the team does.
Anderson said since Park had to play in the previous match before facing the Ponies, the Rangers looked a little tired. Havre capitalized on them being tired, winning 15-7, 15-6, 15-13.
Ranes led with 11 kills with Suek following with eight. Suek also had 2.5 blocks with Jeanna McPherson adding three. Wagner led with 17 digs and Kacie Kitchens had nine.
Havre served 95 percent on the weekend, missing just 16 serves in 15 games and four matches. Ranes topped the team, missing only one serve for 98 percent. Taylor Donaldson also only missed one serve on the weekend for 97 percent.
As a team, Havre hit .233 on the weekend, with Suek leading with a .366, Jayla McPherson following with a .311 and Ranes with a .214. The Ponies had 236 digs combined on the weekend with Wagner leading with 53 and Donaldson adding 43. Havre totaled an impressive 40 stuff blocks in the four games, with Jeanna McPherson leading wtih 11.5.
"She was incredible at the net," Anderson said of Jeanna McPherson. "Our net presence was so incredible this weekend.
"The seniors really stepped it up this weekend. Jayla did well for us setting. Amy Ranes had an excellent weekend, I couldn't ask for more from her. They deserve it. They've worked so hard. They've definitely earned it. A little bit of hard work finally paid off."
Anderson's excitement was topped when watching her team celebrate on the floor after the win in the championship game.
"I am so proud of them," she said. "My eyes were filled with tears after we won. It wasn't a fluke and they proved it. The other teams didn't hand it to us. They worked for every point.
"I'm speechless, what do you say? It was just so much fun. I hope they have that at state."
The top two teams advance to the state tournament this weekend in Columbia Falls. Havre plays the third team from the east in Colstrip at noon on Thursday.
Havre def. Dillon 11-15, 15-10, 16-14, 15-6
Havre Aces 7 (Julie Wagner 3), Assists 35 (Jayla McPherson 33), Kills 43 (Amy Ranes 20, Sara Suek 10), Blocks 9 (Amy 3.5), Digs 61 (Julie Wagner 15, Taylor Donaldson 14).
Havre def. Belgrade 1-15, 0-15, 15-13, 15-13, 15-13
Havre Aces 8 (Julie Wagner 4, Amy Ranes 3), Assists 42 (Jayla McPherson 37), Kills 49 (Amy Ranes 21, Sara Suek 12), Blocks 12 (Amy Ranes and Jeanna McPherson 3.5 each), Digs 67 (Taylor Donaldson 12, Julie Wagner 11, Katie Miller 11, Sara Suek 11).
Havre def. Park (semifinals) 15-13, 15-5, 15-13
Havre Aces 1 (Julie Wagner 1), Assists 33 (Jayla McPherson 31), Kills 39 (Amy Ranes 13, Sara Suek 12), Blocks 11 (Jayla McPherson 4, Jeanna McPherson 3), Digs 65 (Taylor Donaldson 13, Julie Wagner 10),
Havre def. Park (finals) 15-7, 15-6, 15-13
Havre Aces 4 (Taylor Donaldson 2), Assists 37 (Jayla McPherson 25), Kills 36 (Amy Ranes 11, Sara Suek 8), Blocks 8 (Sara Suek 2.5, Jeanna McPherson 3), Digs 43 (Julie Wagner 17, Kacie Kitchens 9).