Fighting for a top seeding at the Central A divisional tournament next weekend in Belgrade, the Havre High volleyball team is heading into the most important weekend of its season thus far.
Tonight and Saturday in Havre, the Blue Ponies will wrap up regular season play with three Central A matches at the Havre High gymnasium.
Tonight, the Ponies will f
ace the Lewistown Golden Eagles at approximately 6:45 p.m. And on Saturday, the Ponies will host the Livingston Rangers at approximately 11:30 a.m., and the Belgrade Panthers at approximately 2:30 p.m.
On the season, the Ponies are sitting at 2-3 in the conference and are currently the No. 3 seed. The Ponies swept the Indians in two matches this season, but also lost their matches to the Eagles, Rangers and Panthers their first time around early in the season. Now with the opportunity to at least earn splits with the Eagles, Rangers and Panthers, the Ponies could give themselves a solid shot at a conference title by moving up the ranks over the next two days of competition at home.
“We need to get at least two wins this weekend to keep our number three seed,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “But a lot of things can change this weekend, we could even potentially finish in second, but that would be tough to do.
“But we can’t even worry about who we are playing,” Skoyen added. “We just have to play well and can’t think about the other team too much. We just have to face each team the same and make sure we are passing well, because everything starts with our defense and our serve receive.”
Facing the Eagles (5-2, 9-9), the Ponies (2-3, 7-8) could very well earn the win if they can just correct what they did wrong the first time around. HHS has grown into a much better team as the season has progressed, but playing in Lewistown early in the season, the Ponies limited themselves with very poor serve receive. The Eagles defeated the Ponies in four games, and Skoyen said that they weren’t mentally prepared and it showed, as the HHS offense never settled into a groove and never got rolling.
Fortunately for the Ponies, there serve-receive has been something they have executed very well in recent weeks, and players like Brandy Lambourne have really stepped up, especially in her serve-receive. Lexi Olson was also injured in their first meeting, so having her back is also an added bonus for the Ponies.
The Ponies also have a very good chance at bouncing back against both the Rangers and Panthers on Saturday.
In losses to both teams, it wasn’t the Ponies’ serve-receive that cost them, instead, it was hitting errors. Like the Ponies did a lot in the early part of the season, they really limited their own success with errors. They gave up too many runs to the opposition, while also putting a stop to their own. That was a big reason for the Panthers beating HHS in four games, and the Rangers beating them in three.
But the Blue Ponies are much improved at this point, and should play much better at home.
Sarah Armstrong has come on as a very tough hitter and middle blocker for the Ponies, while Olson, Lacey Waid and Sadie Seidel have also come on strong with their hitting. And after playing very well in their last two outings without setter Peyton Filius, her expected return has been postponed for at least one more week. But Ellery Bressler has filled in nicely as the setter, and if the Ponies can put all the pieces together, something they have struggled to do on a consistent basis this season, they could come out of the weekend with three more, very important conference wins.
“We are without (Filius) again, and that is tough,” Skoyen said. “But Ellery has really stepped up and we are making the best of the situation. We really haven’t had a full group yet this season, so I am still waiting for that happen and hopefully it will before divisionals. But we definitely have to take care of business this weekend.”
But with some added emotion, the Ponies will also celebrate their seniors tonight. At about 6:30 p.m., prior to the match, the Ponies will honor Davee McLeod, Armstrong, Olson, and Sadie Seidel. This group of seniors has done a lot for the Ponies this season, mostly with their hitting, but McLeod has evolved into one of the teams’ top servers as well.
“They have been a good group,” Skoyen said. “And they have been keeping me on my toes. They love to be challenged at practice, and they are always anxious for the next drill or what is next is on the agenda. But they are also a really fun group, and they have taught me a lot about myself as a coach this year. They have worked hard and the desire to win is there. I can just see how competitive they are, and they are not ok with losing.”
Tonight the Ponies will host the Lewistown Golden Eagles at approximately 6:45 p.m. And on Saturday, the Ponies will host the Livingston Rangers at approximately 11:30 a.m., and the Belgrade Panthers at approximately 2:30 p.m.