Top four on the cards for Western Phantoms

WELCOME ADDITION: Jimmy Winzar will return to the premier team after two weeks overseas. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WELCOME ADDITION: Jimmy Winzar will return to the premier team after two weeks overseas. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WESTERN Phantoms premier men will play a home double-header in Bendigo on Saturday and Sunday as they try to cement a top four spot.

The Phantoms will host Southern Cross Cobras at Bendigo Stadium in what is shaping as an intriguing clash.

The Cobras are third on the ladder with four wins and a loss.

The Phantoms are fourth on the ladder with three wins and one loss. They had a morale-boosting three-sets-to-zero win against Eastside Hawks at the weekend.

With a higher percentage of sets and points won, the Phantoms are looking primed to take it up to the Cobras.

Coach David Berry said the win against the Hawks would give his players self-belief heading into the game.

"It was a pretty complete effort and we were under a bit of pressure against them too," he said.

"The Cobras beat Monash, so they're going pretty well too, and it's going to be a battle at the weekend to see how the teams back up in consecutive games."

Middle blocker Jimmy Winzar will return to the premier team after two weeks overseas.

Berry said Winzar would give the side badly-needed depth at the position.

"They've got an ex-Australian player named Ben Loft at middle blocker, who is about six-foot-six," he said.

"He played for Australia from 1997 to 1999 and was the last one cut before the Olympics.

"They've got another guy Jake King - a left-handed middle blocker - who is playing well

at the moment, which makes it hard."

Berry said Brad Mason, Chris Radford and recruit Paolo Antonio Mecci were all starting to hit their straps.

Phantoms reserves women will also face off against Southern Cross Cobras after breaking through for a nail-biting win against Mornington at the weekend.

The team faces a tough test against the undefeated Cobras, but will be bolstered by Jamie-Lee Ogilvie's inclusion.

The reserves men will also receive a boost from Ashby Smith, who drops down from the premier side.

The division two men must win at least one of their two matches this round after dropping another five-set match at the weekend. Kaylee Schmidt will debut for the division two women, who sit second on the ladder with a 4-0 record.

Berry said matches in places such as Bendigo helped the Phantoms grow their support base.

"It's good we're able to showcase the sport at this level in Bendigo, because volleyball is in a bit of a rut there," he said.

"By taking the game there we get to show what we're all about, which is showcasing what country associations can do.

"We're in constant contact with Warrnambool, Geelong is starting to rebuild its program down there and Latrobe Valley is at the forefront as well."

Minister for Sport and Recreation Damian Drum will serve the first ball before the start of play.

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