GALLERY: Yarra Ranges claims twin titles at Warrnambool’s Annual Seaside Volleyball Tournament

YARRA Ranges yesterday completed a rare double at Warrnambool’s Annual Seaside Volleyball Tournament.

The eastern suburbs-based club emerged victorious in both the men’s and women’s top grades for the first time in more than 20 years of trying.

The twin triumphs elevated the club into elite company with only powerhouses Heidelberg (four times), Renegades (once), the Australian Institute of Sport (once) and Eastside Hawks (once) having achieved the feat in the 40-year history of the three-day tournament.

The straight sets win by Yarra Ranges’ men’s side over Monash gave it back-to-back titles for the first time and its third overall.

For men’s captain Steve Wallace and specialist backcourt receiver Mick Stevens their 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 victory was sweet. They were part of the club’s first and only other Seaside win in 2008.

Wallace said last year’s Seaside win had laid the foundation for the club’s most successful year.

“We had never won state league in Victoria until last year and we are coming up for our 25th year,” Wallace said.

“We won here last year and it set us up for the year and we hope it will do it again.”

Playing coach, former Athens Olympian Luke Campbell, was delighted with his side’s victory yesterday.

“We’ve had a very abbreviated preparation,” he said.

“It’s great we could get some cohesion quickly and get the result. Monash is such a great side.”

Campbell said his side entered the tournament off a three-week preparation, half the usual six-week build up.

“Winning is a bonus,” he said.

Campbell said he was confident his strong side could defeat Monash, especially after recording a big win in yesterday’s semi-final over Southern Cross Cobras, which had been the only team to defeat it in six preliminary games. Such was Yarra Ranges’ dominance in the semi, it conceded just 39 points for the match.

Yarra carried that form into yesterday’s final, using its superior aggressive serving and towering blocking to win the first set comfortably. Despite Monash having good periods in each of the final two sets, Yarra came up with the answers. 

After leading 5-0 in the third, Yarra’s advantage was erased by some precise power hitting that saw it lead 18-16. But Campbell came up with a couple of big blocks and power hitter Ben O’Dea was dynamic in the closing points. O’Dea, New Zealand’s number one beach volleyballer, joined Yarra Ranges earlier this year after moving to Melbourne for work.

He underlined his immense ability by being named the tournament’s most valuable player. Fittingly, he sealed the win for Yarra Ranges with piercing cross-court spike that couldn’t be controlled by Monash.

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