TWO Warrnambool exports preparing for the Volleyball Victoria state league competition hope their home-town tournament can help them fine-tune for the upcoming season.
Gabby Lougheed, 19, and Bella van Vugt, 20, play for Phantoms as pass hitters.
The pair - now at university in Ballarat and Geelong respectively - returned to familiar territory for the Warrnambool Seaside Volleyball Tournament, which started on Saturday and wraps up on Monday.
Phantoms - entered in the women's honours section - hoped high-calibre rivals would help them prepare for their state league campaign which will begin in April.
Lougheed, who has represented Victoria, said Phantoms' players were spread across Victoria.
"All the teams we play here train twice weekly but we haven't trained with each other all year," she said.
"We have to train individually at our home associations and then come together at tournaments and state league."
But Lougheed, who is studying health and PE teaching at Federation University, said it added to the challenge.
"It is a step up from what we usually play - it's the best Victorian volleyballers in one level," she said.
Both Lougheed and van Vugt, who moved to Warrnambool from Melbourne in high school, said the seaside tournament was a highlight on their volleyball calendars.
"We love playing for our home association," Lougheed said.
"It's a great tournament and we get so many teams coming down - I think it's one of Victoria's biggest tournaments - so you get so many divisions and different players you get to meet up with."
van Vugt, a former Brauer College student now studying marine biology at Deakin University, said volleyball's team-first approach was uplifting.
"I like having the team feeling and having to communicate with everyone and having people there to support you," she said.
The duo know each other's games inside and out.
"Gabby is really consistent and she has really good ball control and she's good at hitting as well. She's perfect," van Vugt said.
Lougheed said van Vugt was a force on the court.
"We have played beach volleyball (which is teams of two) together so we know each other pretty well," she said.
"Bella is very good at hitting, she has a very strong arm swing.
"She can kill a lot of balls."
The seaside tournament will play its men's and women's honours grand finals on Monday at Warrnambool Stadium.
The women's final will start at 10am and the men's at 12pm. Both matches will be best-of-five sets.
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