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20 Dec 2017 | Kevin Nguyen (Extract from Mazenod College Volleyball)
In Mazenod’s 26th year of participation at the Australian Volleyball Schools Cup (AVSC), the College entered a total of 9 teams, with 97 athletes and 20 coaches, accompanied by an extra 7 staff members from the College.
In the traditional Mazenod style, the week started off with Mass in the newly renovated college chapel. The College Community celebrated with Fr. Sherman, as we marked our official beginning of the schools’ cup, and the beginning of Advent. Later that day, the U17s and Year 8s had an exhibition game against our rival brother school, Iona College, Queensland. Both teams played 3 sets, and had an amazing opportunity to bond and connect with each other under the Oblate banner.

Games commenced all over the 3 venues on Monday, with most teams commencing their campaigns strongly. The U15s had a tough loss against favourites Brighton, in what would become the first 5 setter for the Mazenod Camp. The Year 7 Div 1 team, settled nerves to win a tight game against Monbulk in their first ever official National Titles match, while the Year 7 Div 2 were dealt with a shock when the strong serving team from Seacliff beat them 2-0. On the other end of the spectrum, the Seniors had a tough match up against the 2016 Champion School, Heathfield, and after 4 sets, successfully got their campaign underway.

As the week drageed on, many of our Mazenod teams continued their fight, with some remaining undeafeated, and others yet to win a game.  Some of our teams had very close losses and wins, and others had to rely on results of other teams for them to progress through. Nonethless the week continued to provide teams with suprise after suprise with the rollercoaster of a week finally culminating in finals day on the Friday!

Friday dawned, and when the dust settled, 5 of our 9 teams were still in medal contention. This included the Seniors, the U17s, the Year 9 Division 2 team, the U15s and the Year 7 Division 1 Team.
Our remaining 4 teams, the Year 12 Division 1, U16s, Year 8 Division 1 and Year 7 Division 2 all finished their campaigns strongly with very reputable finishes. The Year 12 B’s played in a division much stronger than they were, but finished in a very strong position of 14th. The U16s won a crucial playoff against Brighton that contributed to our Champion Boys School success, placing 6th overall. The Year 8 Division 1 team fell just short on Thursday when results did fall their way, they fell into the Classification Pool to place 8th. Our final team, the Year 7 Division 2 also finished with a commendable 9th, considering their difficult week!

The 17s and 15s faced one final semi-final before reaching their final match. The 17s faced Heathfield, having lost to them during the week in 4 sets, the 17s were hoping to seek vindication in this semi-final. Unfortunately, they fell short with the long week taking its toll, losing their semi for a Bronze Medal Playoff against Brighton, which was also lost later that day to finish with a reputable 4th.
The 15s faced Billanook in their semi-final, and having won all their past match ups, this semi was looking like an easy win. The team kept their word, and won the semi to proceed to the Gold against Brighton also later that day. Having met at the very beginning of the week, the grand final was simply expected to be a repeat of their round robin. The 15s took the first set after Brighton made too many errors towards the end of the opening set. However, as Brighton pricked up their game, their class and professionalism showed, and eventually won them the Gold Medal in 4 sets.

The Year 9 Division 2 team having unfortunately not qualified for the Gold Medal Playoff, had to play their final Bronze Medal Match against Immanuel, another team played previously in the Pool Play rounds. The last time the 2 teams met, Immanuel defeated Mazenod in very close 3 sets. The Tchia Brothers ensured that history was not to repeat itself in this crucial medal match. Immanuel came out strong off the blocks, and gained a very quick lead. However, the Year 9s stuck to their opponents throughout the whole set and eventually forced too many errors from the Immanuel hitters to take the 1st set. The same determination and persistence of the Year 9s continued in the 2nd set, as the Mazenod and Immanuel cheers squads met, and despite Mazenod being clearly outnumbered, the Year 9s again dig their way in the 2nd set, and a couple of kills and blocks ensured the 2nd was theirs. A very well earned bronze medal to the team for their weeks efforts.
The Open team faced their final hurdle in their grand final against Brighton. Both teams entered the match undefeated, with Brighton winning their Semi very convincingly against Craigslea, and our Open team working hard to win against a top NZ School, Manurewa. Brighton got right to work from the starting whistle, and quickly put away the 1st and 2nd set. Too many errors from our Open boys and plenty of kills towards the ends of the sets from the Brighton side ensured that these two sets were dealt with relatively quickly. However, to the credit of the Open boys in the first 2 sets, Mazenod stuck right with Brighton, going point for point in many occasions. This too happened in the 3rd set, where both teams would not concede defeat all the way up to the end. Brighton however, missed an opportunity to cement the medal in 3 and dropped the 3rd set. Seeking justice for their lapse of concentration, Brighton once again got the lead in the 4th, and despite trying to recover the points lost, the Mazenod side faced many Championship Points, as Brighton looked to secure the Gold. Great serving runs and kills from our offence however, recovered our losses, and eventually gave us the ultimate opportunity to take the match to 5 sets. With the Brighton side looking down and out, having lost all their momentum, our Open side reclaimed the 4th set, to take this match to a 5th! From here, the fairy-tale of the Open side writes itself. With the momentum of the previous 2 sets, spirits lifted, and confidence followed our senior side. Helped a little by the serving run of Patrick Bailouni, the senior team staged the ultimate come back story, having 4 match points! Needing only one point, it was up to our hitters to put away one last ball. It was all up to our captain, Lucas Gentile. In no way did he disappoint, with a beautiful middle ball, that cemented the first Open Gold Medal in 11 years.
 That same day, Mazenod was crowned Champion Boys School, the first time the school has won the perpetual trophy, and the first time a school other than Heathfield or Brighton had taken the trophy. 

The event is without a doubt, one that will remain within the hearts of many students and members of the Mazenod community for many years to come! Congratulations to all students once again!

Photo Credits: Pure Sport Images & Horizon Line
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Herald Sun Media Coverage
Volleyball Australia Media Coverage
2017 AVSC Champion School Rankings
2017 AVSC Final Standings
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13 Oct 2017 | Kevin Nguyen (Extract from Mazenod College Volleyball)
On the Saturday of the first week of the Term 3 Holidays gone past, an eager Victorian contingent of athletes, coaches, and officials prepared for their flight to Queensland, for the 28th Australian Junior Volleyball Championships.

For the past 14 or so weeks, these athletes who were specially selected at trials, trained with their coaches to develop and refine their skills and gameplay for the national championships. They dedicated hours every weekend building and preparing to face other skilled athletes and state teams, in a week-long tournament that would test all their skills and stamina.
The Mazenod Volleyball Program this year sent a total of 12 athletes along with 4 program appointed coaches, and 1 statistician to be part of the Victorian Contingent, all covering various age groups.

For many teams, there were plenty of rocky starts for the first few days of the championship, as the nerves started for many new athletes and coaches. As the week drew on, many of the Victorian teams started to gel and for coaches, things started to click. As teams got on a roll, the competition became more even, and the various upsets allowed for many teams to leapfrog favourites and begin focussing on medal playoffs. This was despite the many late-night matches, and the long games, with a huge amount of injuries and recovery sessions!

By the end of the week, 10 of the 16 teams were in a medal playoff, with the younger divisions commencing finals on the last night of the finals. Unfortunately, the home ground advantage was too much for our groups, with many gold medals being conceded to the Queenslanders.

This dominance was evident with Queensland almost claiming a clean sweep of championship medals, the only exception being the U19 Championship Men’s Gold Medal, conceded to South Australia in a 4-set thriller. The Presidents Cup, awarded to the Champion State also went to Queensland, with Victoria following South Australia to round out the top 3 states.

A huge shout out must also go to Sean Welsford (Year 10), for claiming a spot in the All Star 7 in the U17 Boys Division. This award recognises the best 7 players in their respective positions throughout the Championships, nominated by all coaches in the division. Well Done!

This tournament is an amazing learning experience for many of the athletes and coaches. All teams must be commended on their amazing efforts reaching a medal playoff at such a tight tournament. Congratulations to all the athletes and coaches on their amazing performance throughout the week, and to those who have claimed medals. Hopefully, the Victorian program continues to grow from strength to strength in 2018 and feed the amazing talent of Volleyball in this country!
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