South West Pirates' women's side breaks a 10-year drought

PROUD: Warrnambool Pirates team members Tara Blain, Rachelle Casley, Cheree McKean, Gabby Lougheed, Morgan Edge Izzy Rix, Katelyn Gibson, Eleanor Collins and coach Andrew Van Baaren pose for a photo with the Victorian Country Championships trophy.
PROUD: Warrnambool Pirates team members Tara Blain, Rachelle Casley, Cheree McKean, Gabby Lougheed, Morgan Edge Izzy Rix, Katelyn Gibson, Eleanor Collins and coach Andrew Van Baaren pose for a photo with the Victorian Country Championships trophy.

South West Pirates’ long-lost Victorian Country Championships gold has been secured.

The Pirates’ women’s side secured a straight-sets (25-14, 25-17, 25-17) victory over Latrobe Valley in the division two final and broke a 10-year country championships drought.

Front court player Rachelle Casley said the emotion flooded through the whole team after the final point was won at Werribee’s Eagle Stadium.

“We were all on a big high after we won that final point,” Casley said after the triumph. 

“One of our girls, Eleanor Collins, had waited 20 years to get a victory at country championships. So we all just jumped on her and each other in excitement.”

Casley said everything seemed to fall in place for the Pirates, who only lost one game for the three-day tournament.

“We played well all weekend, but when it came to the final we just stepped up,” she said.

“Something just clicked from the start of the match and through every set we managed to hold off Latrobe’s surges.”

Casley said a reinforcing message from coach Andrew Van Baaren was a key to the women securing the emphatic win.

“Andrew told us to do everything we needed to do to win,” she said. “We knew what we were capable of, we just had to deliver that in the final.”

The men’s side, coached by Nic Kaiser, fell just short of collecting a Pirates’ clean sweep of division two, falling to Horsham in three sets (25-21, 25-12, 25-22).

Five Pirates were named in the division two Victorian Country Championships all-star seven teams, two from the men’s side and three from the women’s.

Team captain Cheree McKean, Tara Blain and youngster Gabby Lougheed were named in the women’s seven, while captain Tom Beks and James Holland featured in the men’s side.