Marlborough Boys' College are the South Island Secondary Schools Junior Volleyball Champions for the first time in history after their junior A team claimed the title with a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 victory over tournament favourites Waimea College A at Marlborough Lines Stadium in Blenheim yesterday.
After a slow start on Tuesday, the home side produced an outstanding effort just to reach the final. They won both of their matches on Wednesday, then yesterday fought back from a set down to beat Otago Boys' High 2-1 and qualify for the semifinals.
In their semifinal against Riccarton High A, MBC again lost the first set. Once again, though, they were able to force their way back into the match and took the next two sets to secure their finals spot.
If that wasn't proof enough of their character and never-say-die attitude, then the title decider certainly was.
Waimea were too powerful and MBC made far too many basic errors in a 25-14 first set to the visitors. At that stage, Waimea looked well and truly on their way to the title, but midway through the second, the MBC fightback began. Their basics improved and they scrambled superbly, allowing them to level things up 25-21.
The two sides went point-for-point from the midway stage of the third set, until MBC got within sniffing distance of victory at 23-21. However, Waimea hit back with three straight points, giving them the first match point at 24-23. MBC, though, survived that and the three more that would follow and, as the pressure finally got the better of Waimea, the home side somehow managed to win three consecutive points and complete a gutsy 2-1 victory.
With a sizeable and highly vocal crowd contributing to a superb atmosphere throughout the match, the winning moment brought amazing scenes as a large contingent of Marlborough supporters stormed the court and flocked the MBC players.
The smile across the face of MBC coach Nick Richards was a mile wide after the match, his side reversing the ledger following two losses to Waimea earlier in the season.
"We talked about having the courage to keep playing and the boys embraced that. They showed determination and focus and were prepared to work for each other. We showed a lot of courage in the pressure situations and we hung in there for the tough points."
He said the fact their whole squad got on the court during the final was testament to the team effort that had got them there and described the winning moment as one of disbelief.
"It was a moment of disbelief we had done it. I knew we had the ability, but until you've actually done it you are never sure. After that it was just complete elation for the boys and the effort they've shown to make volleyball their main commitment in life."
Richards commented on the cool head shown by Toby Hogg to make the final two serves and was full of praise for Harrison Kilgour, who he called his "MVP of the tournament". The MBC coach added captain Hayden Burrows "led the team admirably" and was its backbone throughout the tournament.
Marlborough Girls' College A matched their male counterparts to come from a set down and win their semifinal over Nelson College for Girls A. However, they could not quite complete the feat in the final and, although they showed a lot of determination to win the second set, in the end, a slick Waimea College A outfit were deserved 2-1 (25-17 23-25 25-14) victors.
Despite losing the final, MGC coach Deidre van Velthooven was "very happy" with her side's tournament. She said it was a team effort which got them to the final and felt all her players got better as the tournament went on.
Eloise van Velthooven hit strongly in all MGC's matches and was a standout, while skipper Megan Fyfe worked tirelessly throughout. Setter Jordan Peipi and setter/middle hitter Abi Evans also had impressive tournaments, with Lia Nicholls a strong blocking presence.
Meanwhile, after winning all six of their matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, MGC Blue (B) and MGC Gold (C) lost both their matches yesterday and had to settle for third equal in the girls' division two.
Blue went down 2-0 to Kavanagh College, then also went down in straight sets in their semifinal against Lincoln High A. Gold had 2-0 losses to the same two teams, except in the opposite order. A third/fourth playoff is not played.
MBC teams finished first and last, with MBC B placing 19th in the boys' competition.
The B side had a tight 2-1 loss to Middleton Grange B yesterday morning, before ending their tournament with a 2-0 loss to St Andrew's Year 10.