Harbour Raiders were double winners at the Volleyball New Zealand Club Championships in Tauranga on Saturday – claiming both the men’s and women’s Division 1 titles.
The remarkable achievement, delivered through talent, teamwork and sheer determination saw the Auckland-based club deliver the double victory for the first time since Raiders accomplished the same feat in 2017.
The Women's team's victory was a testament to the perfect blend of youthful exuberance and seasoned experience.
Combining the skills of young prodigies Kalea Norton (17), Marnie Ursem (18), and Maria Hanabadi (20) with the expertise of Raiders Legends Ari Pola (24) and Danielle Quigley (29), the team showcased exceptional prowess.
This win was especially significant as the Women's team had climbed from “Baby Raiders’ Division 2 triumph in 2022 to Division 1 glory in 2023 with the additions of Danielle Quigley, Ari Pola, and Jasmine Milton.
The contributions of Anna Harrison, Jasmine Milton, Sydney Clough, and the exceptional Libero Zara Pocock were instrumental in keeping Harbour Raiders in the game, and eventually claiming the intense final match against Christchurch club Shirley via a thrilling five-set win (19-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 15-5).
Harbour Raiders men's side celebrate their eighth VNZ Club Championships title. Photo by www.phototek.co.nz
Meanwhile, the Men's team demonstrated outstanding perseverance after a slow start, rebounding from losing the first set to the fired-up Western Bay of Plenty Phoenix.
The introduction of Johann Timmer from the bench, coupled with the consistent setting by the experienced Ashton Howard, paved the way for tournament MVP Greg Vukets to manage the game and the strategy.
Powerful contributions from Manaia Harris, Saxon Gough, and Leni Maiai at different stages of the match kept the Phoenix at bay.
The Raiders eventually seized control of the final, securing a convincing 3-1 victory with a scoreline of 24-26, 25-17, 25-15, 25-20 against Western Bay Phoenix Men A.
The win marked the eighth title for the Harbour Raiders Men's team since its inception in 1991, and the fifth title for the Women's team since their first win in 2014.
Of note is most of the players playing grew up playing school volleyball in the North Harbour Region, which is a testament to the development programmes of the Harbour Volleyball Association.
Information provided by Harbour Raiders was used for this story