There were some nervous moments, but the young Otumoetai College team pulled through to win their maiden NZSS Squash Championships Girls title this past weekend.
The team consisting of number one seed Erin Wylie (year 9), and two sets of sisters, Gen (year 9) and Hope Kennerley (year 10) and Mia (year 9) and Kayla (year 12) Bowles, won the tournament on the players’ home club court at the Susan Devoy Squash Centre.
“It was really exiting to win this tournament at home,” said Erin, “and extra special for us to win for the first time in our own surroundings, with family and friends able to come able to come and support us.
“It was very helpful on court as well, because we knew how hard to hit the ball to get it to the back.”
32 teams representing 27 school entered the boys tournament and 20 teams from 19 schools took part in the girls draw over three days for the 37th annual NZSS tournament.
Local schools did the double, with Tauranga Boys’ College 1 winning the Boys title.
The format of the tournament saw schools play the best of five singles games against each other per tie – thus making it a true team tournament.
Otumoetai College beat Takapuna Grammar School 3-2 in the girls’ final tie on Sunday afternoon, after going up 2-0 but conceding the next two matches to make it 2-2. Gen Kennerley won the final match and Otumoetai were celebrating.
Erin Wylie’s father Darren was the team’s coach for the weekend and the Kennerley’s mother Jacinta was team manager. Darren said that it was a truly team effort. “At one stage or another throughout the tournament a different player had to pull out it out for us and every time that player came through for us.
“For example, in our semi-final on Saturday against Havelock North High School, it came to the last player, with Kayla Bowles winning her match and we won 3-2.”
“In the final, Gen Kennerley was our last player, but in the end she won comfortably and we won 3-2.”
The matches are played one after another, not concurrently, so there is a fair bit of support thrown in there by teammates throughout each match that typically run for about half an hour. “But it feels like a long time when you are watching it,” said Darren.
Otumoetai beat St Paul’s Colleigate Hamilton on Friday, then Orewa College on Saturday, before their semi-final and final wins over Havelock North and Takapuna respectively.
The draw was based on the seedings of the schools, which in turn is calculated on the grade ranks of the players. Otumoetai’s No. 1 Erin is a B1 grade player, Hope and Gen are B2s, Kayla is a C1 and Mia is a J3.
Otumoetai were ranked number two, behind top seeds Westlake Girls’ High School, who lost to fifth seed Takapuna Girls’ Grammar 4-1 in the other semi-final.
At the conclusion of the tournament, four NZSS teams were selected – Senior Boys, Senior Girls, Junior Boys, Junior Girls (see names below).
Erin was selected in the Junior Girls team. Most years this team plays in Australia, but Covid has put paid to that at the moment, so for the second straight year this year’s selection is a paper team only.
The NZSS Junior Girls team that was selected at the conclusion of the tournament, L-R: Mackenzie Tait (Wairarapa College), Ella Hill (Tauranga Girls' College), Erin Wyllie (Otumoetai College), Justine Pausch (Takapuna Grammar School), Lucy Cadness-Aspinall (Westlake Girls' High School), Aishah Lotfy (Westlake Girls' High School)
Erin has been playing squash since she was seven.
Last year Susan Devoy was Erin’s Bay of Plenty Women’s C Grade coach, in their tournament in Napier. With Devoy’s mentoring, Erin won all her 10 matches in the tournament.
This September Erin and Hope Kennerly will be representing BoP’s Women’s B Grade team in Invercargill.
Following that there are the Nationals in Christchurch in October.
The school players all play interclub club squash in the Grade competition (all ages) on Monday nights throughout the winter and Autumn, for the Devoy Squash and Fitness club.
Erin is on court more days than not. “I usually play five times a week. Once on Monday nights in club squash, once in a coaching lesson match with coach Becky Clarke and a couple more times with teammates.”
For Erin, squash is her number one sport, but she has also played several other sports, including volleyball and tennis.
HEAD have recently come on board as a sponsor for Erin, with rackets, bags and other gear to help her pursue her squash future.
She follows New Zealand’s best players. “I like to watch Paul Coll and Joelle King play squash – they are the best players in New Zealand and among the best in the world and the players us juniors can look up to and aspire to emulate when we are older.”
For now, Erin and her Otumoetai College teammates have a few years up their sleeves to keep making their marks in the game, for school, club and province.
The NZSS Squash team for 2021 is:
Apa Fatialofa (captain) - Auckland Grammar School
Joseph Smythe - Tauranga Boys College
Tarin Love - Mt Albert Grammar School
Tom Marshall - Marlborough Boys College
Luke Steyn - Taupo Nui-a-tia
Braedyn Henderson - Matamata College
Jena Gregory (captain) - Havelock North High School
Sophie Hodges - Hamilton Girls High School
Anne Leakey - Orewa College
Katie Templeton - Katikati College
Abbie Holmes - Sacred Heart College New Plymouth
Kiera Thompson - Havelock North High School
Jack Frisken - Marlborough Boys College
Reece Holmes - Hawera High School
Riley McCracken - Mt Albert Grammar School
Cassius Leevey - Francis Douglas Memorial College
Finn Goodsen - Auckland Grammar School
Josh Laing - Whangarei Boys High School
Mackenzie Tait - Wairarapa College
Ella Hill - Tauranga Girls College
Erin Wyllie - Otumoetai College
Justine Pausch - Takapuna Grammar School
Lucy Cadness-Aspinall - Westlake Girls High School
Aishah Lotfy - Westlake Girls High School
NZSS Squash Championships: Last 10 winning schools
2021: Otumoetai College
2020: Whangarei Girls' High School
2019: Whangarei Girls' High School
2018 Napier Girls' High School
2017 Palmerston North Girls' High
2016 Palmerston North Girls' High
2015 Palmerston North Girls' High
2014 Epsom Girls’ Grammar School
2013 Epsom Girls’ Grammar School
2012 Epsom Girls’ Grammar School
2021: Tauranga Boys' College
2020: Mount Albert Grammar School
2019: Mount Albert Grammar School
2018 Westlake Boys' High School
2017 Westlake Boys' High School
2016 Westlake Boys' High School
2015 Westlake Boys' High School
2014 Tauranga Boys’ College
2013 Tauranga Boys’ College
2012 Tauranga Boys’ College
Interview and story by Steven White, for College Sport Media, August 2021.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand