TWO aspiring volleyball stars have returned from their first international competition to their base in Bournemouth – and received a warm welcome from Team GB poster girl Zara Dampney.

Sam Allen and Sam Walrond, from Bournemouth’s LeAf elite sporting academy, which is home to the UK’s first and only indoor volleyball training centre, have just competed in the School Games in Brazil.

The talented pair, both 16, carried the union flag at the opening ceremony in Cuiaba in front of 4,000 spectators, before they took on the best of Brazil.

Before they left for South America, volleyball star and former Parkstone Grammar student Zara gave the two Sams valuable tips about competing on the international scene.

After welcoming them back home, she said: “They will have learned so much from this experience. The key for them now is training every day and repetition of skills. Facilities like this fantastic indoor training centre will make that possible.”

The Brazilian competition started well with the GB boys beating the champions of the Tocantins region two sets to nil.

Their next game was against the champions from the Ama-zonas region and despite showing a lot of fight, they lost 2-0.

In the third match, the two Sams were pitted against the champions of the Espirito Santo Region, with the winner going through to the round of 16.

They started very positively and won the first set. The second set saw a swing in fortunes and the Espirito pairing started to cut out unforced errors.

Sam and Sam eventually lost by a three-point margin in that set and lost the game two sets to one.

Sam Allen, from Bere Regis, said: “It was a really great experience, the standard was high and it was really challenging.”

Poole’s Sam Walrond added: “The last game we played was a three-setter and went on for one hour and 10 minutes and the temperature was 40 degrees.”

The lads’ coach Vangelis Koutouleas said: “The improvement was huge with the guys.

“We care about results but this trip was important for the future.”