Havre Daily News sports witer
Playing on the road is never an easy task, and the Havre High volleyball team is very much aware of that fact, as the Blue Ponies have yet to play at home to this point in the season.
But things got a little bit better for the Central A Ponies Saturday, as they found a way to pick up two wins on the road.
Saturday, the Ponies were in Lewistown for two more nonconference matches. The Ponies hadn’t earned a win since the opening weekend of the season, a conference win over Browning, but over the weekend they went from 1-4 to 3-4 overall. HHS defeated Laurel by scores of 25-18, 25-23, and 25-14, and defeated Hardin by scores of 25-18, 26-24, and 25-16.
“It was great to win and it was great to win in three games too,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “The girls really played well together, and that is why we won. They mesh so well as a team, and that is why we are still looking forward to what we can do this season, and what the outcome is going to be. But it was just really good for our confidence to get those wins right now, they deserved that.”
In the matchup with both Laurel and Hardin, the Ponies knew they would be faced with two talented hitting teams.
And while the Hardin Bulldogs were able to post 31 kills on the Ponies, the Locomotives were held to just 14 total kills. The Ponies were also able to outhit the Locomotives with 36 total kills of their own, and weren’t too far behind the Bulldogs with another 23. Jacinta Finneman and Lacey Waid both had a nice outing with a team-high nine kills each against the Locomotives. Waid added another team-high seven kills against the Bulldogs. Finneman and Martha Stocker also combined for three of the Ponies’ nine total blocks on the day, as the Ponies ability to handle the hard-hitting attacks, as well as battle back with their own talented hitters, was key in the Ponies picking up both wins.
“That was important, especially against Laurel,” Skoyen said. “And us having complete control over a team like Laurel shows that anything can happen in volleyball, and you can’t give up. You have to play hard all the time and you have a chance to win. But our defense, blocking, and hitting has to always be tough, and it was.
“And I don’t know if we were intimidated at first by Hardin,” Skoyen added, “but they played very fast and were very aggressive. Our blockers had trouble at the beginning of the match, but after we made some adjustments it really helped our defense. Even though we weren’t getting a lot of stuff blocks, we were slowing down their hits and made it easy for our defense to set up our offense, and then our hitters did a really nice job.”
Dani Wagner has become a very important component in the Ponies’ success as the setter. HHS had 21 assists against the Locomotives and Wagner had 12 to lead the team. The Ponies had 13 total assists against the Bulldogs with Wagner leading with seven.
The Ponies played well in all areas of the game in both matches. HHS needed to get to 26 points to beat the Bulldogs in game two, and beat the Locomotives by just two points in that match’s game two, but overall, the Ponies earned several quality and statement wins. Closing out games and matches, and keeping the momentum was another area of concern heading into the weekend, and the Ponies executed that very well, especially with the 25-14 win over the Locomotives in game three, ending the match with some authority.
Facing Laurel, Wagner had four of the eight aces, while Tatiana Ralph had 14 of the 64 total digs. And against Hardin, Breck Don racked up four aces, while Ralph had 11 digs.
“We closed out and finished very well,” Skoyen said. “If anything, we started slow and had to fight back in it. But, like I discussed with one of our coaches, it is better to have the slow start and finish strong than vise versa. But we are still focusing on being focused from point one. Once we did get the lead, though, we were good about closing out teams and not letting them back in.”
Now, 3-4 overall, the Ponies will get back to Central A conference play Thursday as they welcome in the Lewistwon Golden Eagles. Saturday the Ponies will remain at the Havre High gymnasium to host nonconference Choteau.
Havre def. Laurel
25-18, 25-23, 25-14
Laurel leaders – Kills 14 (Abbie Jonoff 5, Hailey Spitzer 5); assists 14 (Emily Vandersloot 11); aces 2 (Megan Schmitt 1, Emily Vandersloot 1); digs 47 (Kaylee Davis 11); blocks 2 (Kalee Olson 1).
Havre leaders – Kills 36 (Jacinta Finneman 9, Lacey Waid 9); assists 21 (Dani Wagner 12); aces 8 (Dani Wagner 4); digs 64 (Tatiana Ralph 14); blocks 4 (Jacinta Finneman 1.5).
Havre def. Hardin
25-18, 26-24, 25-16
Hardin leaders – Kills 31 (Hannah Ware 13); assists 26 (Darla Davisson 26); aces 6 (Hannah Ware 2, Shayna Uffelman 2); digs 46 (Hannah Ware 16); blocks 5 (Anna Old Crow 3).
Havre leaders – Kills 23 (Lacey Waid 7); assists 13 (Dani Wagner 7); aces 5 (Breck Don 4); digs 45 (Tatiana Ralph 11); blocks 5 (Martha Stocker 1.5).