If there is one thing that is going to help propel the Havre High volleyball program into a successful 2013 season, it is going to be senior leadership.
The Central A Blue Ponies have quite a few holes to fill since last season, but with six seniors highlighting the roster, the Ponies should be able to escape without too many bumps and bruises this year. But with the varsity roster not housing a whole lot of experience, a winning season, as well as a top finish in the Central A is still going to present the Ponies with an uphill battle.
Last season the Ponies finished as the third-place team in the conference, finishing with a 5-7 record, and going 2-2 at the Central A tournament. This year will be just as tough, as Havre, Belgrade, Browning and Livingston will all be chasing Lewistown once again. Belgrade lost a ton of seniors a year ago, while Lewistown lost just two seniors. And Livingston is always a solid program year in and year out, falling somewhere in the middle of the pack. But the Ponies can’t underestimate the Indians either. Browning may not be pushing for a top spot in the team standings, but the Indians do have a knack for pushing the Ponies in every match they face off against each other.
HHS will start the season against the Indians on Saturday, playing the season opener in Browning.
The six HHS seniors have to set the tone early. Ellery Bresler, Martha Stocker, Breck Don, Lacey Waid, Aubrea Worm, and Jacinta Finneman are the six returning seniors, with just Waid and Stocker and Bresler returning with real varsity playing time under their belts. Waid is a returning starter and will handle the outside hitting duties, while Stocker has to help control tempo with her hitting and blocking abilities in the middle.
“They have adjusted well so far,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “It is just going to take repetition for them to get used to different setters and different passers. It will take time, but we will do well.”
Sophomore Dani Wagner will also get plenty of varsity time this year as the new starting setter. Wagner will handle the majority of the setting duties and has caught on very quickly, showing off her skills most recently at last weekend’s Blue/White scrimmage. Outside of setting, Wagner can also be used as a solid hitter for the Ponies’ offensive attack.
“The fact that she is setting and hitting is going to be a huge advantage for us,” Skoyen said. “It is just a lot harder for teams to track your hitters when all of sudden, your setter is smacking the ball at them too.”
As a team, the Ponies still have some work to do.
Coach Skoyen is focusing on the fact that they need to work on their movement on the court. They can’t afford to stand still and simply cover their spots, instead, they have to be constantly moving and be ready at all times. It will come more naturally in time, but the Ponies have the athletic ability to get the job done.
HHS is also switching up the serve-receive. Instead of a libero, the Ponies will rely on, not one, but four girls to handle the serve-receive duties. Jordyn Warren and Tatiana Ralph are defensive specialists, but Waid and Worm will also be in, all of which showing impressive passing skills. The rest of the roster will also be factors, as the Ponies are leaning on everybody to contribute this season. Also expected help out the varsity is Reggie Bernard, Megan Erickson, and Shania Carlson.
“I think any coach would say that serve-receive is the hardest thing,” Skoyen said. “It is just a mental part of the game, and with our inexperience at the varsity level, we are going to be faced with tougher serving now. We are really working on serve receive in practice a lot right now.”
If the Ponies can lock down their serve-receive, they should be OK. Don and Bresler have shown great serving skills, while Waid, Finneman, and Stocker give the Ponies solid hitting from the middle and outside. After facing Browning in the season opener, the Ponies will be tested in not only conference play, but in extremely tough tournaments like the Windy City Classic and Electric City Classic. The Ponies will play their first home match on Sept. 26, when they host conference rival Lewistown.
The season begins on Saturday, when the Ponies face Browning on the road. For more on the HHS volleyball team, see Friday’s Havre Daily News, as well as the annual Fall Sports Preview, which will be published Friday as well.