The Havre High Blue Ponies exceeded everyone's expectations except for maybe their own going into the Class A State Volleyball Tournament in Columbia Falls.
Havre took home the third-place trophy, but the Ponies felt they could have done better.
"They placed well, but they didn't play well," Havre head coach Lacy Anderson said. "They didn't play up to what I thought they should have."
Still, Anderson said she is proud of her team and knows they gave it everything they had.
"I don't have any regrets," she said. "I'm not going to look back on this season and say we could have done better. They gave it everything they had. They worked their butts off."
Havre won its first two games of the tournament Thursday over Colstrip and host team Columbia Falls, both in four games. With those two wins, the Ponies were set to face Hardin in the semifinals.
Once again, as they had at various times in the season, the Ponies struggled with serve receive. In the three games with Hardin, Havre gave up 18 aces eight in the first game. In two of those three games, the Ponies lost by a total of four points.
"We gave them the match," Anderson said. "Hardin doesn't make many mistakes and they capitalized on ours."
The Ponies lost to Hardin 15-13, 15-6, 15-13.
"Our serve receive took us out of the weekend," Anderson said, noting her team gave up 54 aces in 15 games on the weekend. "I don't think we gave up 54 aces total all season."
Forced to fight back through the loser's bracket, the Ponies faced Park for third place. Havre defeated Park at the divisional tournament to win the title, but this time the Rangers had the upper hand on the Ponies.
Havre's loss in four games to Park, 15-2, 8-15, 15-8, 15-9, gave the Ponies third place and a trophy at state, but kept them from a chance at a rematch with Hardin.
"They didn't play poorly by any means," Anderson said of her team's matchup with Park. "(Park) just outplayed us. They capitalized on our mistakes."
Anderson said a big difference in the game was in blocking. The Ponies had only four blocks in the game.
"It was a huge difference," Anderson said. "A lot of times they were just smart and got it over our blocks. It was our little things. They took advantage of our poor serve receive. That's the match right there."
Park had 16 aces in the game.
While serve receive was not the strength of the Ponies over the weekend, serving was. The Ponies missed only 17 serves on the weekend for 95 percent. Laura Hedstrom was perfect on the weekend and Sara Suek made 74 of 75 serves for 99 percent.
Still, Anderson said that if her team had passed the ball well, the tournament would have had a different outcome.
"If we would have passed, we would have dominated that tournament," she said. "We hit .200 and that's without passing the ball very well. Our downfall was passing.
"I'm still so proud of them, though. That's 21 other teams that we are better than. I couldn't have asked for more out of them."
After it was all said and done, Anderson said, she had trouble talking to her team. Fighting back tears, Anderson said she finally broke down in tears when talking to her parents.
"My heart definitely breaks for them," she said. "I'm not disappointed with them. I'm not disappointed in the season. I like the fact that nobody expected us to do this well and we did. They pulled together and did an incredible job."
The following are the total weekend stats for Havre at the state tournament:
Havre def. Colstrip 6-15, 15-10, 15-12, 15-8 (first round)
Havre Aces 5 (Amy Ranes 2), Assists 33 (Jayla 33), Kills 40 (Ranes 12, Sara Suek 10), Stuff blocks 10 (Ranes 4, Jeanna McPherson 3), Digs 36 (Julie Wagner 9, Kacie Kitchens 9).
Havre def. Columbia Falls 13-15, 15-6, 15-7, 15-5 (second round)
Havre Kills 37 (Amy Ranes 20, Jeanna McPherson 6), Stuff blocks 10 (Jayla McPherson 2.5, Sara Suek 2.5), Assists 34 (Jayla McPherson 31), Aces 2 (Julie Wagner 1, Jayla McPherson 1), Digs 71 (Katie Miller 15, Taylor Donaldson 12, Sara Suek 12).
Hardin def. Havre 15-13, 15-6. 15-13 (semifinals)
Havre Aces 3 (Taylor Donaldson 1, Sara Suek 1, Jayla McPherson 1), Assists 24 (Jayla McPherson 21), Kills 27 (Amy Ranes 14, Sara Suek 6), Stuff Blocks 13 (Ranes 3.5, Jayla McPherson 3.5), Digs 30 (Julie Wagner 8, Katie Miller 7).
Park def. Havre 15-2, 8-15, 15-8, 15-9 (third place)
Havre Aces 4 (Jayla McPherson 3), Assists 45 (Jayla McPherson 29, Laura Hedstrom 15), Kills 50 (Amy Ranes 18, Jayla McPherson 9), Digs 66 (Julie Wagner 16, Sara Suek 10), Stuff blocks 4 (Ranes 2).