WARRNAMBOOL Volleyball Association collected two titles from its own 38th annual seaside tournament, which wrapped up at the Arc yesterday.
Nanjing Night Net

The South West Pirates sailed to victory in the division two men’s and women’s competitions, drawing strong crowds to both grand finals at the Caramut Road stadium.

It was a courageous win for the Warrnambool men, who secured successive trophies despite being two players down in the decider against Riddells Creek.

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The Pirates, reduced to a bare minimum six men, refused to show any sign of fatigue and instead battled with boisterous energy to triumph three sets to one.

Young coach Sam Sturgess said Warrnambool’s jubilant post-win celebration was a concoction of mixed emotions.

“They’re relieved and overwhelmed,” he told The Standard after the match.

“It was the result of persistence, training and fitness.

“It was a great performance by all of the players.”

Warrnambool lost key hitters Mark Burleigh (back) and Steven Bourke (ankle) through injury during the long-weekend tournament, leaving the defending champion with no bench for the grand final. Sturgess said the depleted ranks forced young outside setters James Holland and Leon Warrick to step up alongside Tom Beks, Greg Best, Brad Hunt and Rob Bright.

“We had a lot of young players coming through,” Sturgess said.

“I told them to dig deep and keep pushing.

“This was it. This is what we’d been training for.”

The Pirates won the first set 25-21 but found themselves trailing 23-19 in the second.

However, after scrambling back to 23-23, some miscommunication allowed Riddells Creek to seal the set 25-23 and level scores at one set apiece.

“They seemed to be pushing back,” Sturgess said.

“We had to lift one more notch. We couldn’t give up.”

The host grabbed three unanswered points early in the third but scores were soon tied at 6-6.

Warrnambool broke away again to be 18-11 ahead before closing the set 25-17.

Sensing a result, Riddells Creek returned fire early in the fourth to be up 16-10.

But the Pirates had no intentions of letting the match spill into a fifth set.

Warrnambool rallied and levelled scores at 19-19 and again at 21-21.

With the crowd on their side and the timely execution of some accurate serves and blocks, the Pirates bagged the fourth and final set 25-22.

The division’s most valuable player award went to David Pollock of the Wallabies, while Best was runner-up.

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