Orara High School’s volleyball three-peat

Orara High School’s volleyball team has been crowned North Coast champions.

ORARA High School defeated Wauchope High School 3-0 to win the North Coast Combined High Schools (CHS) Volleyball competition for the third time in a row on their home turf at Sportz Central.

Orara High School teacher and volleyball coach Alex Dujin shared the remarkable journey that led up to the event.

“During the last six months the Orara Thunder has been preparing for its most anticipated grudge match since 2019,” he said.

“However, getting to this point was no ordinary journey.

“After placing eleventh in 2018 and a respectable ninth in 2019, a new generation of eager, enthusiastic volleyball loving students emerged.

“In year 7 and year 8 in 2021… they were somewhat an eclectic group of Orara High School students, representing various local multicultural nations from Myanmar, Iraq (Yazidi) and Ukraine, together with their local team mates from the Coffs Harbour community.”

The students all had one thing in common however, a shared love for the game of volleyball.

“For the students from foreign countries in particular this was an antidote for the hardships they lived through during their travels to safe havens and living in various refugee camps around the world,” Mr Dujin said.

“The love for the game of volleyball in many ways helped them to forget their struggles and focus on play time in the early stages of their developing lives.”

Mr Dujin said in 2021 a new “school volleyball dynasty” was born at Orara High School, with the team missing out by the finest of margins on becoming the youngest team to ever win the Coffs Harbour Zone Volleyball championship.

At that time the team consisted of students predominantly from year 7 and 8, featuring just two year 9 students.

“The tenacity to never give up was already evident back then, saving several match points after coming back from a set down and a slow start to the second set, eventually succumbing to bigger, physically stronger and more competitively experienced year 11 and 12 students from Bellingen in a frantically exciting local grand final,” Mr Dujin said.

The only thing to halt their progress was the suspension of school competitions due to Covid-19.

But the resilient group of students bounced back from the break, emerging stronger than ever.

“Embarking on a magnificent journey of courage and self-belief, it only took one year to change the course of the adversities of 2021,” Mr Dujin said.

“This took place in the form of winning semi finals and grand finals in 2022 and 2023 and placing ninth (2022) and fourth (2023) at the NSW State Championships.”

By this stage the team was represented by a mixed group of students from year 9, 10, 11, and one student in year 12.

“Winning the 2023 semi-final match against Wauchope, after trailing 2-0 in sets and being behind in the fifth set decider 13-9, set up this highly anticipated semifinal re-match at the newly renovated Sportz Central stadium in Coffs Harbour this year.”

The energy and enthusiasm from the team has resonated throughout the school and the atmosphere on matchday was electric, with hundreds of Orara students crossing the road to Sportz Central to give their unwavering support with deafening chants of “Ra, Ra”.

This year’s Wauchope matchup started off evenly with both teams trading points.

The Thunder then executed some well-worked defensive and attacking moves to extend their hard fought lead to five points, holding on to win the first set.

“The second set proved somewhat similar, however Orara stepped up their intensity and electrifying gamesmanship earlier in the game and managed to masterfully stamp their authority and win by an even more convincing margin in this set,” Dujin said.

Coach Dujin kept the faith in the core six players starting the match before making changes after two sets.

With the energy of the crowd growing even stronger in the third set, the Thunder put to rest any doubts of a Wauchope comeback with some high quality serving.

When the final point was won, players and supporters erupted into celebrations that will be remembered for years.

“The end of the match atmosphere was reminiscent of the previous year’s grand final win’s euphoric celebrations.”

The win means Orara retains its number one ranking and remain champions of the North Coast region.

“This decision was made by mutual consensus between Murwillumbah and Orara High School for the benefit of easing the pressures of expenses and prior commitments.”

Coach Dujin provided a poignant reminder that it takes a community to build a team.

“The Orara Thunder would also like to pay their respect and thank the Coffs Harbour Volleyball Association for their ongoing and for their ever-unconditional support in continually assisting in the development of individual and team skills.

“Their commitment to fostering an incredibly encouraging, safe and fun environment during Thursday night training and competitions is forever appreciated,” concluded Dujin.


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