Havre fans haven’t seen the Havre High volleyball team play since the Blue/White scrimmage in August. But as the Blue Ponies are finally able to make their home debut, fans should be in store to see a volleyball team that is much improved.
After two nonconference wins last weekend, the Central A Ponies improved to 3-4 on the season. And with an early win over Browning; the Ponies are 1-0 in conference play.
But now the Ponies prepare for two matches at home. Tonight at 7, the Ponies will host the conference rival Lewistown Golden Eagles. And on Saturday at 12 p.m., the Ponies will host the nonconference Choteau Bulldogs. Both games will be played at the Havre High gymnasium in Havre.
“We are all looking forward to playing at home,” Havre High head coach Melanie Skoyen said. “Plus it is our homecoming, so we are looking forward to that too. The girls are just really happy to get these matches during homecoming and to have the chance to play in front of our fans.”
Facing the Eagles, the Ponies know they will have to play nearly mistake free if they hope to get the win.
Lewistown has a strong reputation for fielding a talented team year in and year out. This year is no exception, as they house top-tier players like senior setter Maddie Comes. Comes missed the last two matches with a foot injury, but could be back in the lineup tonight. But even without Comes’ setting, Sydney Wier has stepped up and continued to feed outstanding attackers and hitters like Paige Zibell, Michelle Monger, Mikaela Olson, Jaree Mane and Lexie Anderson.
The Eagles are coming off of a solid win over the 2012 Class A state Champion Laurel Locomotives, but the Ponies know they could sneak a win if they play well.
“I think definitely, both matches are winnable this weekend,” Skoyen said. “And yes, Lewistown is a great team, but against anybody, if we can outplay our opponent and outsmart our opponent, we will be successful.
“We always expect Lewistown to be tough,” Skoyen added. “But from what I have seen, Lewistown has also struggled just like we have with inconsistencies. I know that can be the case with any volleyball team, but this year with them, I think it is the case more so than in the past. We need to put pressure on them right from the beginning and get them out of their comfort zone and make them do things they don’t want to do.”
If the Ponies can limit their mistakes and force the Eagles to continue to make mistakes, the Ponies have to like their chances. But hosting the Bulldogs on Saturday, the Ponies know they have another tough outing, even at home.
Choteau will test the Ponies, but Havre isn’t as concerned with winning or losing since it is a non-conference match. The Bulldogs present the Ponies with another good opportunity to work on things, as well as try new things before facing the rest of the Central A later on down the road.
“It is always good to get wins,” Skoyen said. “But as long as we are still improving and the girls are giving 100 percent and leaving everything on the floor, if we don’t win, then that is a different story. We always want to make sure we are playing hard and playing to our potential.”
If the Ponies want to grab one, or maybe even two wins, they have to continue to play to their strengths.
Dani Wagner continues to improve as the Ponies’ setter according to coach Skoyen, and she has meshed well with the rest of the offensive attack. But what has really stepped up and helped carried the load is the Ponies’ defense and ability to alter games with their blocking. Jacinta Finnemen and Martha Stocker have played very strong at the net so far this season, and have helped boost the Ponies’ defense. Their presence will be factor tonight and on Saturday.
“Our blocking and defense has improved immensely,” Skoyen said. “Both are so solid right now, and hopefully we can keep that going. (Finneman and Stocker) are doing a phenomenal job blocking. I think that is what helps our defense. Even if it is just a touch from them, it slows down the hits and makes it so much easier for our defense to track down the ball, and it makes it a much easier pass by our defense.”
The Ponies will look for two wins at home. Tonight they host Lewistown at 7 p.m. and on Saturday the Ponies host Choteau at 12 p.m.