IT was their first tournament since COVID shutdowns began but the Kelso High School teams showed no signs of rust during a success Tempe Schools Cup event.
Kelso's open girls team went through the entire tournament unbeaten to claim gold while the open boys side blitzed through the pool stage, only to come undone against a quality Sydney High outfit on their way to a bronze.
The Kelso volleyball squad has been hard at work in training ever since it was announced that in place of the cancelled Australian Schools Volleyball Cup there would be a newly created NSW/ACT Schools Cup to still give players the chance to compete at a high level.
That was the perfect motivator for the school - and the recent event at Homebush was the perfect building block towards it.
Kelso coach Jerry Sheader said the teams performed brilliantly after such a long time away from the competitive scene.
"The best thing was just being able to see their faces on the court again because they've been training all year, and to go down there and play proper game of volleyball in a stadium was great to see and it was great for them," he said.
"Our boys played really well, coming first in their pool and then losing the crossover game with Sydney High but winning the bronze medal play off.
"The girls went through without losing a set. They were understrength too because their captain, Maddy Vallis, hurt her ankle playing rugby league so we had people in different positions. That made things a little more difficult but they still ended up getting the gold medal."
Such success, even down on numbers, should come as no surprise to the girls side who have regularly featured prominently in their AVSC competitions year after year, as well as sending several members into NSW squads.
The best thing was just being able to see their faces on the court again because they've been training all year.Jerry Sheader
Now the focus shifts firmly towards the NSW/ACT Schools Cup.
While the Tempe Schools Cup success is strong preparation for Kelso it was being treated more as a training exercise for the bigger event on the horizon.
"Considering the fact they were adjusting to different players and combinations, they did well. It might have actually helped them because they needed to concentrate that extra bit more," Sheader said.
"Obviously we're building up towards the NSW/ACT Schools Cup. That's being held over the same week the Australian Volleyball Schools Cup would have been in, from December 8 to 13.
"As soon as we found out that tournament was confirmed, about four weeks ago, our training really picked up again. Before that it was really hard to train with a lot of enthusiasm."
Kelso will send three volleyball teams to the Cup next month: Year 11 boys and girls teams along with a year 10 boys side.
The year 11 girls will play in honours division while the boys squads will be lining up in division two.