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State volleyball berth on the line for HHS

All season long, the Havre High volleyball team has been looking for consistency. The Blue Ponies have the talent to be successful in the Class A ranks, but after the ups and downs of the regular season, they have to be at their highest level to succeed moving forward.

The regular season has come and gone for the Central A Blue Ponies, now the Ponies are moving onto the Central A divisional tournament in Belgrade. The Ponies will compete in Belgrade today and Saturday, fighting for a coveted spot in the Class A state tournament next weekend in Bozeman.

Belgrade is a heavy favorite this weekend, carrying an 8-0 conference record and as the No. 1 seed. The Lewistown Golden Eagles are No. 2 with a record of 6-2, while the Livingston Rangers are 3-5 and the No. 3 seed. The No. 4 Ponies also finished with a 3-5 conference record, but the Rangers earned a higher seed due to a tie breaker. The Browning Indians are the No. 5 seed, holding a 0-8 conference record.

The Ponies will face the Indians in the opening round, but the task only gets tougher after that. If they defeat the Indians, the Ponies will face the Panthers who have earned a first-round bye. If the Ponies lose to Browning, HHS will face the loser of the Livingston/Lewistown matchup.

The Panthers are out in front with no conference losses this season, but the Central A is relatively tight. And the Ponies are adopting the idea that anything can happen in the post season.

"It is more exciting this year," Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. "Everyone is in good spirits right now, there isn't a whole lot of pressure on us, and nobody really expects a lot from us, but we know that we have the talent. Some little things have happened here and there with sickness and injury, but we do have a full team this weekend and we know against any team, anything can happen.

"Consistency is so important this weekend," Skoyen added. "Everything we have worked for over the last 12 or 13 weeks all comes down to this weekend. We are continuing to gel as a team, but we have to continue to be consistent. We are just focusing on the fundamentals and basics."

HHS does have to the ability to beat any team they face this weekend, if the Ponies play well, and play to their strengths. Consistency plays a major part, and if the Ponies can execute the serving game, as well as get solid hitting and serve receive, they should be very successful this weekend. The Ponies swept the Indians this season, so are they are favored to move past the first round. But with the Panthers waiting in the second round, the Ponies will have to play well right out of the gate, and continue through the end of the weekend.

"I think it is a good spot to be in," Skoyen said. "We are just being optimistic about everything, and we just know that no matter who we play, we have to put pressure on them. We want to serve teams tough and attack the ball aggressively, and just make them uncomfortable and make them play our game instead of theirs."

Sarah Armstrong is going to be a huge factor this weekend. She has been amongst the conference kill leaders all season long, and has come on very strong late in the season. Sadie Seidel and Lexi Olson also have to hit well if the Ponies are going to have a balanced attack. Martha Stocker needs to continue to play well at the net, while Brandy Lambourne needs to continue her excellent defense and serve receive play.

And to add to the barrage of talent, the Ponies have received a late-season boost by Ellery Bresler, a setter filling in for the sick Peyton Filius. But Filius is back in time for the divisional weekend, giving the Pony attack two reliable passers. This is the first time the Ponies are playing at 100 percent in a very long time, as they also limped through a stage midway through season without the hitting of Olson.

"There has been a difference in practice with everybody back," Skoyen said. "But Ellery has still been pushing Peyton in practice, and Ellery is still going to get good playing time this weekend because she has proved herself. But playing in practice has been great, everybody, even our twelfth player has played so strong, and has been making the first string play harder and better."

Anything could happen this weekend with the Ponies, and they are hoping that is true, as the road to the divisional title runs through No. 1 Belgrade. But the Ponies have shown improvement this season, and have played well near the end of the regular season. But with losses to every team in the conference except Browning, the Ponies know they have to play at the highest level possible.

Today the Ponies take on Browning in Belgrade at the Central A divisional tournament.

Havre High's Martha Stocker, left, and Lexi Olson, right, go for a block in a Central A Conference volleyball match last Saturday against Belgrade in Havre. With a win against Browning today, the Blue Ponies could face the Panthers against tonight at the Central A Divisional tournament in Belgrade. The divisional tourney runs through Saturday night.


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