By George Ferguson
The Havre High School volleyball team is trying to get home. It's a long road that includes an important stop in Browning as the Ponies enter Central A divisional tournament play today with a first-round match against Butte Central at 4 p.m. at the Browning High School gymnasium.
The Ponies are one of eight teams vying for three berths in next week's Class A state tournament in Havre. Blue Pony head coach Lacy Anderson believes that her team is prepared and ready to go after one of those coveted spots in Havre.
"The girls spirits are really high right now and they are feeling very excited to play," Anderson said. "There is definitely a sense of urgency with us right now because all year long our focus has been to get to play in the state tournament on our home floor. But in order to do that, we have to play really well at the divisional tournament. The girls no that the time is now."
The Ponies finished with a 6-4 conference record and placed second in the North Subdivision of the Central A conference. They will begin divisional play against the Butte Central Maroons, who placed second in the South Subdivision.
Havre has lost twice to the Maroons this season including a loss in Browning on the opening weekend of the season. The Maroons also defeated Havre last weekend in pool play at the Windy City Classic in Livingston.
Despite the two losses, Anderson likes her chances against the Maroons.
"We have not played very well against them this season," Anderson said. "But Butte Central is a team we match up well against because they don't have a lot of size at the net. However, they are a very scrappy defensive team and they seem to dig up everything we hit at them."
If the Ponies defeat Butte Central, they will advance to the second round tonight against the winner of the Dillon/Browning matchup. If they fall to the Maroons they will face the loser of that match tomorrow at noon in loser-out play.
Anderson likes the side of the bracket her squad ended up on but she knows her team is going to have to do several key things very well in order to get out of Browning alive.
"We're in a good situation because we wouldn't see Lewistown right away," Anderson said. "But we just have to remain focused on the match in front of us."
Anderson says that the two main keys to success in Browning will be confidence and passing.
"We absolutely have to pass the ball well this weekend if we are going to be successful," Anderson said. "The other thing is I know the girls are capable of going out there and beating anybody in this tournament. But I am not sure they believe they can and they need to believe that this weekend."
The top-ranked Lewistown Eagles will open the tournament at 10 a.m. against the Belgrade Panthers. Anaconda and Livingston will follow that match and Dillon will face off against host Browning at 2 p.m..
Anderson thinks that Lewistown and Dillon are definitely the teams to beat this weekend, but she also feels that her team should qualify for state as well.
"Lewistown and Dillon are solid teams and they should definitely be favored," Anderson said. "But I feel like if we play like we're capable of, we should be right there with them on Saturday night."
Havre will be getting Kelsey Smith back from a wrist injury she suffered two weeks ago while the rest of the Ponies are healthy and ready to go this weekend.
"All of our girls are really feeling good right now and very excited to play," Anderson said. "The seniors on this team are really a great group of girls and I think they have it in their minds that they do not want Wednesday to be their last practice they'll ever have."
"I am confident that if we play like I know we can, we will be practicing next week too," Anderson added.