FOUR Maffra Secondary College teams won gold medals at the Victorian Volleyball Schools Cup.
The school sent six teams to the three-day event at Dandenong, resulting in the most success in its short volleyball history.
Despite having players from years nine to 11, the senior boys’ team had to enter in the year 12 division.
With only six players in the team, the boys were one injury away from not completing the tournament, but showed skill and maturity to convincingly win the gold medal, only dropping one set along the way.
Darcy Dorward, Maffra’s only year 12 representative, made the most of his final year playing school volleyball by having his best tournament yet with strong service and powerful spiking which often left the opposition scrambling. Dorward saved his best till last and was a dominating force in the grand final.
With only four Maffra girls in that year keen to play, the year 10 girls’ team was allowed to recruits players from other schools which didn’t entered the tournament.
The composite team, despite never playing together before, gelled straight away and never looking like dropping a set.
The girls were coached by former Maffra student Hannah Bennett, who has continued her volleyball by playing at the top level for the Latrobe Valley state league team, and also is assistant coach of a Victorian under 17 girls team this year.
Bennett had a lot of firepower in the team, with Mikayla Underwood, Holli Oakley, Cassidy Stevens and invited players Alyssa Kinkela and Jess Lawton strong hitters. They were ably supported by some good setting from Ainsley White.
Shae Oakley was the most consistent player on the team, hitting smart and making solid serves.
With three state representatives in the team, Jaz Underwood, Gabby Walsh and Kalarni White, hopes were high the year eight girls’ team would do well.
Losing coach Shae Oakley to playing duties with the year 10 team, former Maffra student Kaylah Fink stepped in to lead the girls, who proved to be a strong unit, not dropping a match on their way to the finals.
In the grand final against Eltham, Maffra won two close sets with consistently powerful serving and a strong chase mentality. The win was topped off by Underwood being named the player of the tournament for her age group.
The year nine girls’ team completed Maffra’s successful tournament.
With only seven players, the girls had little opportunity to rest during matches.
Led by first year coach Kristie McDonald, the team won all its pool matches, only dropping one set.
Strong serving by Jess Bower helped overcome Maffra’s quarter-final opponent.
In the semi-final against Murtoa, a dominant display at the net by Keily Nikolajew and some strong serving by Narelle Brown secured the first set.
Murtoa turned it around in the second set, winning comfortably.
Murtoa quickly established a three-point lead in the final set, which was first to 15 points, but Maffra responded, characterised by the speed and determination of libero Lucy-Belle Macreadie, to swing momentum back its way to win 15-12.
The grand final against Northcote was a close affair. Maffra managed to hold a two-to-three-point advantage for most of the first set with a dominant hitting display by Chelsea Wain and Bridie Williamson.
Northcote rallied in the second set with strong backcourt play which pressured the Maffra team into uncharacteristic errors.
Northcote led by four points in the latter stages of this set, but once again the Maffra team steadied with some strong serving and calm passing under pressure.
At 24-24, Maddi Clark served an ace. Clark then calmly served the next ball in, which was duly closed out by Keily Nikolajew at the net for an epic win.