FERGUS Schier's rapid rise through the volleyball ranks continued at the weekend, with the Murtoa teenager picking up a bronze medal at the Australian Junior Volleyball Championships.
Schier was a member of the Victoria Blue under-17 team that contested the top division at the championships.
The team played off against the top squads from South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT in a double round robin format last week, with the top two teams facing off in the gold medal match.
Victoria finished third after the round robin stage and played South Australia in the bronze medal match on Saturday.
Having already defeated South Australia in both its round robin matches, Victoria had reason to be confident.
The match went according to script with Schier and the Vic Blue team dropping a close first set 25-23 before recovering to win 25-18, 25-22, 25-15 to comfortably claim bronze.
Queensland won the gold medal match but was defeated in straight sets by Victoria earlier in the tournament.
Schier did not play in the bronze medal game, but said he learnt a lot in his week with the team.
"It was very different to being in the Vic West team last year, because the way the coaches and players conducted themselves was more professional," he said.
"I liked it much better because you could really focus on your game.
"There wasn't a particular aspect of my game I improved during the week, I just improved overall."
Schier said his goal was to qualify for the team again next year and help win a gold medal.
It was the third time a volleyball Horsham player has won a medal at the national junior championships.
Jack Denson took home an under-15 bronze medal in 2005, Lachie Robinson came away with an under-17 bronze in 2006, and Jess Radford won silver with the under-19 Victorian women's blue team last year.
Volleyball Horsham president David Berry said Schier's bronze medal was a fantastic achievement for a player who was still improving and learning about the game.
"I saw a couple of his games and he did not look out of place at all," Berry said.
"He improved immensely as the week went on, and if you know Ferg, everyone loves him.
"I spoke to one of the other boys on the team and he was full of complements for Ferg and what he was doing."
Berry said Schier had plenty of potential and was capable of even more improvement.
"He'll go onto under-19 level next year, but the good thing is that once you get into the state system, it's a good place to be. He's got a bright future, there's no question about that."
Three other Volleyball Horsham players competed at the championships.Murtoa's Tom Petering and Aaron Evans and Horsham's Kaylee Schmidt were included in Vic West development squads which competed in a lower division.
Berry coached the under-17 girls Vic West team that Schmidt was a member of. He said each of them had shown they belonged in the state program too.
"Every time the kids go on the court, the goal is to get better than the previous time, and Kaylee epitomised that better than anybody," he said.
"From the first point of the first game to the last point of the last game, she kept improving.
"She started the campaign as the second setter, but the number one setting spot in the west team is hers to lose for next year, and in years to come she could be pushing for a spot in the blue team."
Berry said Petering and Evans had done themselves proud in the boys under-17 Vic West team.
Despite not medalling in its division, the team challenged the powerful New Zealand North team on Thursday.
Western Phantoms player Matt Gordon coached the team.