Westlake Girls’ High School defended their NZSS Senior Girls Volleyball crown earlier this year. Following that success, two of their students, Tam Otene and Kaila Ru have been selected to represent the Senior New Zealand Women’s team.
The year 13 Westlake GHS pair will join their New Zealand teammates for the three-match international series against Australia on 5-7 June in Lower Hutt, Porirua and Wellington.
Tam plays outside hitter and Kaila is a middle blocker.
They earned selection following a combined camp for the U23/Senior Women’s players over four days in Christchurch in April.
This website has previously profiled Tam (April 2018), and also went to the Youth Olympics last year representing New Zealand in beach volleyball.
Kaila explained her reaction to being selected. “I received a phone call from the senior women's head coach. My reaction to hearing this was very shocked as I am only 16 and never thought I was good enough to play with the top players in New Zealand. After a few minutes my body was just filled with so much energy and I couldn't stop smiling because I couldn't stop thinking about what it would be like to play in the National Women's team.”
We asked them some more questions about their volleyball careers below:
College Sport Media: What New Zealand representative teams have you played for previously?
Tam: I played last year for the NZ junior women’s (U19) team that travelled to Vietnam to play in the Asian Championships. The first time I played for NZ was in 2016 for the youth women that travelled to Florida. Last year we played the U19 Australian team and it was a good battle but we were able to pull through 3-0.
Kaila: I played in the youth U17 women's team last year and travelled to Thailand to compete in the South East Asian games and the U17 Asian Championships. When I was in Thailand for the U17 Asian Champs my team played against Australia Twice.
CSM: Playing at home in front of family, friends and a local crowd will be exciting?
Tam: I’m excited to play with the senior women as they are more experienced and I can learn so much from them, they are an awesome bunch of women and I’m humbled to be a part of the test series team. Playing in front of a NZ crowd will be a nice atmosphere and will make it a more comfortable environment.
Kaila: I am excited to play in front of friends and the locals for my first time, and my family but they will be watching on the live stream. I think I’ll be nervous at first because the crowd will be watching me closely as I’m the youngest in the team but once I get going I’m going to try my best to put on a good show for them.
CSM: How long have you been playing volleyball for, and do you have an early memory of the sport?
Tam: I started playing half way through year nine (so 14 years old) and I don’t have an early memory of watching the sport as I didn’t really know much about the sport until that year.
Kaila:: I’ve been playing since 2015, so four years now. My earliest memory of playing volleyball would be at my first junior Auckland champs, it was our last game and it was match point and I served an ace and we won our first game. Something else I remember was when I was a year 9 at Junior Auckland champs I only watched one player the whole tournament and I would tell everyone about how good she was and how I want to be as good as her, And now I can say I have won a national title with her and I am getting the opportunity to play alongside her in the New Zealand team this June.
CSM: What would be a volleyball highlight for your so far in your career?
Tam: travelling to Vietnam was an amazing experience, I enjoyed the trainings and the games and just being with a great bunch of girls. Also, winning the NZSS title in 2018 and 2019 was a big highlight and I am very proud of everyone in the team
Kaila:: Winning New Zealand Secondary Schools tournament was a big highlight for me. I moved schools from Rutherford College to Westlake Girls for my last year to play volleyball so I was glad all the hard work we put into training paid off and we were able to win. I’ve formed some unreal friendships and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else.
CSM: Do you have a pre-game habit or routine before you take the court for big games?
Tam: I don’t have any particular routine but I always love to listen to music before games.
Kaila: Before games I recently have been starting to do visualisation. I visualise about how I’m going to play and what I need to do to help contribute to the team. I visualise my teammates, friends and family’s faces what they would look like if we won that game. I also listen to music in my headphones.
CSM: What other sports do you or have you played?
Tam: I played badminton for nine years and stopped last year as I decided to focus more on volleyball and to free up some time. I also play netball and beach volleyball.
Kaila: I did Athletics up to aged 14 [high jump and discus], but then I started losing interest so I started playing volleyball whilst I was finishing off my last years of athletics. I only compete in school competitions like Harbour zones and Auckland champs where i was able to pick up two medals at the Auckland champs even though i was doing it for fun.
CSM: Because this is a school sport website, what subjects do you do at school and do you do any extra-curricular non-sporting pursuits?
Tam: I enjoy pretty much all my subjects but I do mostly enjoy the sciences and social sciences. Some of my non-sporting hobbies is playing piano, I took lessons when I was younger but now I just play by ear, playing the piano is one of my favourite things to do when not doing sport. I also enjoy photography.
Kaila: My favourite subject is outdoor education because I like to experience and learn more about the outdoors. I also love the trips for example my class and I recently went on a 40km mountain bike around the Great Lake trail.
CSM: Who would be your greatest influence on getting you to where you are now?
Tam: My family. They have done so much for me and has given me so many opportunities through the support that they give me.
Kaila: I wouldn’t be the player I am without the help of coaches and I know if I need anything they’ll always be there to help me. I am very grateful for my family for helping support me with all my trips and watching my games. I play 10 times better when they’re watching. Lastly, I am grateful for my mum, taking me to trainings and games and just running around for me so I don’t have to do it I appreciate her the most and I’m thankful for her constant support and the help she has given me.
CSM: Thank you and good luck and go well!
Photo above: Meli Naborisi (left) and Keegan Joe with the NZSS Senior Boys Beach Volleyball title.
PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Maree Photography. For photos of the winners go here For more photos visit the website here
“We were runners-up as year 12s last year, now we are the champions as year 13s,” reflects one half of the 2019 Senior Boys NZSS Beach Volleyball Championships winning team, Keegan Joe.
Keegan and teammate Meli Naborisi ran hot in Mount Maunganui last weekend to win the senior boys title, less than a fortnight after also winning the National U19 Beach Volleyball title at the same venue.
“I don’t think we dropped a set all weekend,” says Keegan who represented New Zealand at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina last October.
The Spotswood College pair continued a fine recent tradition for the New Plymouth school, after former students Libby Houghton and Hikaru Han won back-to-back Senior Girls titles in 2017 and 2018. Keegan and Meli also won the junior title together in 2017.
The tournament was played over two days last Saturday and Sunday, and featured 211 teams (up from 160 last year) on 32 courts across two age-groups and two divisions.
Keegan and Meli beat teams from Otumoetai College, Orewa College (2) and Long Bay College, on Saturday, before accounting for all four opponents on Sunday. After beating a Takapuna Grammar School pair first up in the morning they saw off challenges from three consecutive Bay of Plenty schools – Otumoetai College (again), Western Heights High School and Trident High School.
In the final they beat Jack Oswald and Tawari Stanley from Trident High School.
“We played really consistency in the gold medal match and we got a good rhythm going and ended up taking the game,” says Keegan.
Keegan and Meli had also beaten their Trident adversaries in the U19 section of the national age grade provincial tournament at the Mount on 22 and 23 January, defending their title that they won last year.
Keegan and Meli had a busy build-up ahead of the two recent tournament wins. “We averaged about six trainings a week and then on top of that we travelled around the North Island for some open competitions.”
They are coached and managed by Keegan’s dad, AJ, whose support is invaluable. AJ also coaches Spotswood College’s indoor volleyball teams.
Hard work and success has paid off with the pair having been selected to represent New Zealand at the World Secondary Schools Beach Volleyball Championships in October, although that trip is unconfirmed.
Last October Keegan teamed up former Spotswood College student David Jeffrey in the New Zealand boys team at the Youth Olympics. The Kiwi pair lost all their three matches, to Chile, Poland and Russia.
“But being part of that multisport environment and being around like-minded athletes was an awesome experience, and to battle it out against the other teams in the world was great.
“I also got to watch the other athletes in different sports in action and cheer them on, and they also came and watched us. It was a really good environment.”
The indoor volleyball season is now underway, leading up to the NZSS Championships in Palmerston North in Summer Tournament Week, and Spotswood will be hoping to compete for the Division One silverware this year after winning the Division 2 title in 2017 and 2018.
“The beach and indoor volleyball is ongoing, between the two it is pretty much year-round for us.
“We are working towards the NZSS nationals and we are looking for a top 10 finish there this year.”
Keegan is also busy off the court this year.
Late last year he was chosen as Spotswood College’s head boy for 2019.
“I have a big year coming up, with volleyball and my head boy responsibilities and I am doing a university calculus paper. The head boy role is opening up extra leadership opportunities as well, so I have a lot on this year and it is all going to make my year pretty full-on!”
New Zealand Secondary Schools Beach Volleyball Championships Results:
1st G Stjade/S Young (Nayland College), 2nd T Otene/J Vukets (Westlake Girls' High), 3rd K Allan/M Hinton (St Andrew's College).
1st D Menoita/T Nu'u (Westlake Girls' High), 2nd R Davidson/E Ballantyne (St Margaret's College), 3rd E Dickson/B Puletaha (New Plymouth Girls' High).
1st K Joe/M Naborisi (Spotswood College), 2nd July Oswald/T Stanley (Trident High), 3rd Gillespie/Tiplady (Western Heights).
1st J Robert/K Smith (Hillcrest High), 2nd C Laurent/B Henry (Whakatane High), 3rd J Basson/E Skelton (Rangitoto College).
If you thought beach volleyball sounds like an exciting sport to be good at, you’d be right.
Sunshine, opportunities for travel, and a busy schedule of tournaments.
But like any sport it also involves a lot of hard work and dedication, and many hours of training and practice in all conditions.
“We normally tough it out and train outside, even in cold, miserable weather. We have an outdoor beach court area at our school so we head out and train there in all conditions,” says beach volleyballer Keegan Joe who is preparing to represent New Zealand at the Youth Olympics in October.
“I’m also busy at the moment juggling all my schoolwork around volleyball training and I’m doing a mix of NCEA Level 2 and Level 3 subjects,” adds Keegan who is year 12 at Spotswood College.
Over the past year, Keegan has competed at three major junior beach volleyball tournaments, ahead of the Youth Olympics in Argentina.
Keegan will be teaming up with a familiar player. “My partner at the Youth Olympics is David Jeffrey, who is an ex-Spotswood College student.”
A third Taranaki player will also be going to the Youth Olympics, with Maya Dickson who is currently at New Plymouth Girls’ High School teaming up with Westlake Girls High School’s Tamara Otene in the women’s competition.
Keegan finished fifth at the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas last July with Tyan Gillespie from Rotorua - which is a highlight so far.
“Not only our result at the Youth Commonwealth Games, but also being part of a multisport event. I see that as kind of reflecting what the Youth Olympics will be like, only way bigger and lots of opportunity to do well.
“The Youth Commonwealth Games had about 1000 athletes, the Youth Olympics is meant to have about 4,000 and more sports, so being part of such a big youth sporting event and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is going to be great, and wearing the New Zealand fern is a big thing for me.”
This year he has had two trips overseas, earning qualification for the Youth Olympics in the process.
The first was to Australia to the Oceania U19 Beach Championships. Keegan and Olympic partner David finished second at that tournament in Canberra.
The second was to Nanjing, China in the middle of July for the World Youth Beach Volleyball Championships. Keegan teamed up with Ryan Gunn from Rangitoto College to finish 17th equal.
“The recent trip to China was a great experience. The competition was tough because there are so many great beach volleyball countries around the world, but competing at the highest youth level was pretty cool.”
Back home last summer, Keegan and David won gold at the New Zealand U19 Beach Volleyball Championships in Mt Maunganui. Keegan and David followed that up by winning the qualifiers for the New Zealand team for the Oceania Champs.
Keegan also teamed up with year 12 schoolmate Meli Naborisi to finish second to Rangitoto’s Ryan Gunn and Sam Andersen at the NZSS Beach Volleyball Championships at Mt Maunganui.
Of note, Spotswood College pair Libby Houghton and Hikaru Han successfully defended their NZSS Girls title in the same tournament.
As well as on the sand, Keegan plays indoor volleyball for the Spotswood College team that won the Division 2 title for the second consecutive year at the NZSS Indoor Senior Boys tournament in April.
In winning Division 2, Spotswood beat Otago Boys’ High School 3-0 in their quarterfinal, Rongotai College 3-0 in their semi-final and then One Tree Hill College 3-0 in their final.
Prior to the tournament splitting up into the two divisions, Spotswood was drawn in a tough pool which also included Western Heights High School, Nayland College and One Tree Hill College. Western Heights went on and won Division 1, Nayland College finished fifth in Division 1 and One Tree Hill College were the team they met again in the Division 2 final.
Keegan says most of the team will be back next year so they will be hoping to make Division 1. The nucleus of this Spotswood team finished third at the North Island Junior Championships in 2016.
The Spotswood College team is coached by Keegan’s father, Anthony Joe. He is also Keegan and David’s coach at the Youth Olympics.
The Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games will be held from October 6-18, involving over 200 countries.
Above: Westlake Girls’ High School celebrates winning this year’s NZSS Senior Division 1 Volleyball title. Photos above and below by Julie Maree Photography. For more photos go here
A whirlwind few weeks has wound down for the Westlake Girls’ High School Senior volleyball team, but for tournament MVP Tamara Otene there’s much more to look forward to later this year.
Fresh from helping her side win the Auckland Championship followed by their maiden NZSS Senior Division 1 title in Palmerston North at the end of Summer Tournament Week, Tamara is now turning her attention to preparing for the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in beach volleyball.
Prior to indoor Nationals, the year 12 student travelled to Canberra to compete in the U19 Oceania Youth Qualifiers, alongside the best youth beach volleyballers in Australia and the region. There she and her partner Maya Dickson (New Plymouth Girls’ High School) beat the Australian pair twice to book their spot at the Youth Olympics in October.
This won’t be the first time she has represented New Zealand. In late 2017 Tamara competed in the Junior World Championship in badminton. "Worlds was an awesome experience. That's how I got used to the people watching and the big crowds,” she said. “I aspire to go to the Olympics one day – just like all other athletes.”
“The thing I love the most about beach volleyball is that you are 50 percent of the game and I love the wide variety of shots that you can play,” Tamara added.
She was part of plenty of winners at the recent NZSS Championships. Westlake Girls’ High School won the national title for the first time in the school’s history without dropping a set.
Coach John Howard said the core of the winning team was the Westlake side that had won the NISS Junior title at the end of 2016, which Tamara was also the MVP of.
“Tamara is a pretty exceptional athlete,” said Howard. “At one stage she was playing three international sports - beach volleyball, indoor volleyball and badminton.”
As well as Tamara, Zara Pocock made the starting seven tournament team. Zara was also tournament MVP at the Auckland Championships that Westlake won earlier in March.
The Westlake Girls’ High School NZSS Division 1 winning squad was: Sara McCarthy (C), Zara Pocock, Katie Sadlier, Elizabeth Howard, Tamara Otene, Emme Shearer Rachael Webster, Kaia Pola, Juliette Vukets, Jess Moors, Romy Olivier, Emma Schulte, John Howard (Coach), George Koria (Assistant Coach), Debbie Wareham (Manager).
Howard said that planning is a key reason for the team having gone through Nationals unbeaten without dropping a set.
“We spend a lot of time preparing and we try to avoid surprises as much as we can. We never go into a game expecting to win 3-0 we just want to win even if it is a five-setter,” said Howard.
“I think we only lost four sets throughout the season, and you have to tell the girls that we are going to lose sets so don’t treat it as a big deal if we do.”
Westlake beat top Bay of Plenty’s Otumoetai College in the final (25-23), (25-17), (25-21).
They beat Wellington’s St Mary’s College in their quarter-final (25-15, 25-17, 25-18) and Auckland’s Aorere College (25-21, 25-18, 25-14) in their semi-final.
“We had beaten Aorere 3-1 in the final of the Auckland Championships, and they are a really strong defensive team. They have got two NZ reps in there and a good wise old coach who I used to play against so we are always really nervous against them.
“But the good thing there was that we had played them a couple of times previously this season so we knew them a bit better.”
Their quarter-final was more nerve-wracking.
“St Mary’s put us out the year before in the quarter-finals. We had a five-setter against them and lost and we finished fifth.”
“They had pretty much the same team, so we had a huge preparation for that game, with some video analysis and a lot of talk about what they do and how we could combat it.”
“Unfortunately for them, their key player ended up injuring her hand and that put them on the back foot, but we beat them quite well. Those two games against St Mary’s and Aorere were probably our best two games of the tournament.”
Beaten finalists Otumoetai College beat Rangitoto College in their semi-final (25-20, 25-14, 25-17).
Rangitoto were to finish third, while Orewa College finished sixth, putting three North Harbour schools in the top six.
“Rangitoto had their ups and downs throughout the season, but they played well at nationals and it was really good to see another North Harbour finish well was great. They didn’t play well in their semi-final loss to Otumoetai but they came back to beat Aorere [3-2] in the third placed game and Aorere had been beating them all year.”
Last year’s champions Trident High School finished 10th.
North Harbour schools also finished second and third in the Boys Division 1 tournament, Rangitoto College were runners-up to Bay of Plenty’s Western Heights High School, while Orewa College were third.
There were 171 teams competing at the 50th Secondary Schools Volleyball Championships in Palmerston North.
The Girls Tournament team was:
Libero - Zara Pocock (Westlake Girls’ High School)
Middle - Jenna Thorne (Otago Girls’ High School)
Middle - Paige Mellsop (Otumoetai College)
Outside Hitter - Meletia Leilua (Aorere College)
Outside Hitter - Tamara Otere (Westlake Girls’ High School)
Opposite - Layla Sae (St Peter's College)
Setter - Phoenix Paniora (Trident High School)
MVP - Tamara Otene (Westlake Girls’ High School)
“I think on the whole we're the underdogs. Any tournament we go to, whether in Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga or Auckland, people assume we don't play good volleyball because we are from Southland”, says Central Southland College’s senior A boys and girls coach Alyssa Johnstone. “We on a bit of a mission to change that view.”
As recently as five years ago there was no volleyball programme to speak of at Central Southland College (CSC), the sport having gone into somewhat of a region-wide recess following the collapse of the Southland Stadium roof in 2009.
Fast-forward to today, and volleyball is flourishing at CSC and the school has its own New Zealand Youth men’s representative player, Sam Hodges, and South Island U20 representative and national U20 trialist Jamie Mcintyre. The senior boys team recently won Division II at the 2018 Mainland Secondary Schools tournament.
Johnstone charts the rise in popularity of volleyball at the Winton-based school, with a roll of 580 students:
“We have 80 players at the stadium on a Wednesday night, the vast majority of whom are coached by senior team players such as Sam and Jamie. This is the roll on effect of the junior players I coached back in 2014.
“I started with one team of eight year 12 and 13 boys, playing in the social grade at a high school gym in Invercargill. Needless to say, it wasn't at all what I was expecting, but they were doing their best with the lack of facilities available to them. In 2014, I coached all five school teams (two senior and three junior) during lunchtimes at school. The year 9 students I coached that year are now some of our year 13s in our senior teams.
“At the end of 2014 Invercargill hosted the Junior South Island Secondary Schools Volleyball Tournament at the newly completed stadium. The junior girls A team attended, which was their first exposure to serious volleyball.”
Volleyball at CSC kept growing, expanding to five teams in 2015 and then eight teams in 2016. That year, both the senior girls and senior boys attended the Mainland Volleyball Tournament in Christchurch for the first time.
Johnstone had been on maternity leave, so local Southland men’s player Sam Lavea stepped in to coach the boys team in 2016. The boys finished sixth in Division II and the girls third in Division III.
“Sadly, a few months later, Sam Lavea died in a car accident near Invercargill, which left the boys absolutely devastated.”
In 2017, CSC had seven teams running, with five of those being coached by senior players. The senior boys competed in the Mainland tournament again and came seventh. The senior girls traveled to the Satellite Nationals tournament in Christchurch.
At the end of last year, Sam and Jamie coached the junior boys team to 9th in Division II at the Junior South Island Secondary Schools Tournament. Senior girls players Kacee Green and Maggie Beggs coached the junior A girls to the same tournament to fifth 5th in Division III. Two junior girls were invited to trial for New Zealand in 2018 - Erin Forde and Omea Hall.
The players spent the summer school holidays training hard.
“At the end of 2017, we re-trialled the senior boys Team in order to train over the summer in preparation for Mainlands 2018. All of the junior boys who had played for Sam and Jamie made the training squad, which trained 8-10 hours a week all summer, with a week of over Christmas.
“Jamie and Sam ran most of the trainings themselves. Three of the junior boys from the year before went away with the team, filling the pivotal roles of setter, libero and middle. This was caused entirely by Sam and Jamie's diligence and leadership.”
At the recent Mainland tournament, the boys went undefeated and only lost two of 20 sets overall. They beat Shirley Boys B for a second time in the finals, winning Division II overall. They also went undefeated at the recent Southland Champs.
“Our programme has been boosted again by the recent announcement that Sam will be travelling to Iran this year with the New Zealand Youth Men’s Team.
“Sam and Jamie are a bit of a duo. They push each other to become better players. They love to have a laugh off the court, but they are all serious come game time. Sam has gained a lot of attention because of his skill and his height. Standing at 204cm, it's hard for him to fly under the radar in any scenario. Jamie is a year older, slightly more competitive, and very driven. He will naturally have to work harder than Sam since he's only 190cm tall, but this just increases his motivation to succeed.”
CSC won’t be attending the NZSS Nationals in Palmerston North this year, but it is a future goal.
“We would love to go to Nationals. It's been in the pipeline for a while now, but following their undefeated win at Mainlands, and the dedication to training they showed over the summer, it has become more and more evident that the boys are going somewhere. Parents have approved our initial proposal to attend Nationals in 2019, and that is what we are working towards at the moment. Many of our players are also training for the upcoming Inter Provincial Championships on Queens Birthday Weekend in June.”
There is still plenty of room for volleyball’s growth at CSC.
“Because we are a small school and there is an immense amount of athletic ability, students want to and many can do a range of sports.
“However, there has been a real shift in the senior boys team in the last six months. The junior boys Sam and Jamie coached last year to Junior South Islands now see volleyball as a sport they can pursue. And what was once a senior boys Team made up entirely of First XV players, is now about half rugby players and half volleyballers.
“With exposure to the competitive side of volleyball comes buy-in, interest and passion, and that's what we've seen as we've travelled with teams in the last few years,” concludes coach Johnstone.
Volleyball New Zealand has confirmed the selection of 24 athletes for the upcoming tour to the US HP Championships to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The two squads selected are ...
Year 12 Trident High School volleyball, netball and touch player Phoenix Paniora hasn’t had much time to catch her breath over the past couple of years. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love my sports, I don’t know where I would be without my sports,” Phoenix told College Sport Media this week.
Most recently, she was named as the girls tournament MVP at the NZSS secondary School Volleyball Championships in Palmerston North, after helping her Trident team win the Division 1title for the first time.
She also plays netball and Touch rugby, having played for both her school and for Bay of Plenty representative sides on a regular basis over the past few years.
Over the next two months, Phoenix’s main focus is volleyball, and for good reason too.
“I’m taking a break from representative netball over the next couple of months as I’m going for selection for the New Zealand senior women’s volleyball team, and if I make that we go to the Philippines in August”
But first she hopes to make the Bay of Plenty team for the Women’s National U20 tournament in Wellington on Queens Birthday Weekend at the start of June. The New Zealand senior women’s team trials follow that and the 2017 Asian Women's Volleyball Championship is in Manila from 9-17 August
She’s already had a taste of playing for New Zealand. “Last year I made the New Zealand U17 Youth team and we went to Florida. That was a great experience; it really opened my eyes to see what was out there. The competition was strong and very challenging, considering that in New Zealand we are not very tall and then I got a bit of a fright from that.”
In March Phoenix was part of the New Zealand U18 Women’s volleyball Team that finished eighth in the Asian Youth U18 Girls Volleyball Championship in China.
Returning home, another major highlight for Phoenix was winning the NZSS title at the end of March. “We were fighting for that number one position and we were motivated by the fact that Trident High School had never won before so we wanted to be the first ones to win the tournament for our school.
Trident beat Rangitoto College 3 sets to 1 to win their quarter-final, defeated Burnside High School 3 sets to 1 in their semi-final and overcame New Plymouth Girls’ High School 3 sets to 1 in the final. Overall Trident played and won nine games in five days, winning their matches by a combined 27 sets to six
Phoenix and teammate Mana Kume made the tournament team, Phoenix selected for the second consecutive year, while Phoenix was surprised to be the 2017 tournament MVP. “All my friends were telling me at the time that you’ve got the MVP and I was just staying humble and thinking that I’d be happy for the person who did and I was just so happy to get it myself.”
Phoenix primarily plays as a setter, controlling the tempo of her side’s attack and setting up their winners. A position that carries a lot of responsibility.
“It’s a hard position to play at times because setters usually control the structure of the court and they know what to do and what the hitters want. Coming from a sporting background, my mum was a setter so she teaches me stuff to help my team and how to win points.”
“Mum [Sheralee Mills-Paniora] played volleyball for New Zealand. “She started playing volleyball for New Zealand when she was 17. I was 16 last year when I went to Florida. She went to Kawarau College and they won the NSSS nationals as well, so I just wanted to follow in her footsteps with Trident this year.”
Phoenix has been playing volleyball since year eight. “I started it then and I liked it. Graham Walker was my coach when I started high school and he helped me start my volleyball career.” In 2014, Trident won the NI Junior Secondary School Volleyball Nationals, setting the foundation for this year’s Senior NZSS win.
As well as volleyball, Phoneix has also played in numerous representative netball and Touch teams.
At the start of this year, Bop finished fourth at the Junior Touch Nationals, while last December Trident High School finished 14th at the NZSS Touch Nationals.
“My dad played Touch, so I that’s how I stared playing that. I didn’t really like it at first because it was hard and tiring. But when I got older I developed my skills and started to love it as well.”
Last year Trident High School finished 14th in the A grade of the Upper North Island Netball Championships. The top six finishing schools qualified for the 16-team NZSS Championships. “We have been in the A grade for a couple of years now. We have a young team, so hopefully we’ll keep improving.”
She’s still got another full year of school to come in 2018, but after that Phoenix hopes to gain a volleyball scholarship in the USA or to go to university in New Zealand and study Physical Education.
She thanked the people who have got her thus far: Hemi Barsdell, Sandy Barsdell, Graham Walker, her mum Sheralee (all volleyball) and TeAhuru Waititi (netball). “I’m grateful for all the support of these people. My netball coach TeAhuru helped me build up my confidence and leadership skills.”
Team unity and strong courtside support were to two factors that carried Trident High School’s Senior A Girls volleyball team to the NZSS title win in Palmerston North last Friday.
Captain Courtney McConkey explained how both helped Trident’s team overcome a strong field to be the best team in New Zealand in 2017.
“Five of us have been playing together since 2014 and we won the Junior North Islands that year together, and other players that have joined us since then have all fitted in well, we’re really close-knit and that helped us win some tight games, “ Courtney enthused.
“We also got a big boost from our supporters. We were surprised that so many came down from Whakatane to Palmerston North to cheer us on, plus some of the other Bay of Plenty schools got in behind us in the final against New Plymouth Girls’ High School. Seeing so many people dressed up in Trident colours really lifted us.”
After beating them in the first game of the tournament earlier in the week, Trident beat New Plymouth GHS 3-1 in the final, but it was much closer than that. Trident won the first set 25-17, but New Plymouth came back to draw level by taking the second set 25-23. Trident took the third set 25-16 and then held off a spirited Taranaki challenge to win the fourth 25-22.
“When that final whistle blew and we knew we had won it was a huge relief for us all, “Courtney said of Trident’s maiden NZSS Senior Volleyball victory.
She explained how tight their penultimate match was. “Our semi-final win over Burnside High School was more intense than our final. Burnside were the two-time defending champions and they hadn’t been defeated all year in winning the South Island tournament and hadn’t dropped a set prior to getting to nationals.”
Trident found themselves down 0-1 (23-25). “We were behind but we just kept fighting and growing together and pushing, and they stayed the same and started dropping off.” Trident won the second set 25-19, the third 25-22 and the fourth 25-23.
“Our quarter-final match against Rangitoto College was also pretty close for us. In the fourth set we were down 18-23 but came back and won it.”
Two Trident players made the Girls’ tournament team – Phoenix Paniora and Mana Kume. Year 12 Phoenix was the Tournament MVP.
Overall the team played and won nine games in five days, winning their matches by a combined 27 sets to six. The Girls tournament featured 97 teams, with games running all week from 8.00am to as late as 11.30pm at night.
There’s no resting on their laurels for Trident’s winning volleyballers, with inter-provincial team U17 and U20 team trials coming up this weekend and many players hoping to make these squads. Members of the team also play other sports, such as netball and football in the winter and then Touch in the summer.
Of note, both Trident High School and Manurewa High School were the respective Girls and Boys Junior North Island tournament winners in 2014 and both went on to win the Senior titles in 2017.
Trident High School’s results:
Defeated New Plymouth 3 sets to 1
Defeated Otumoetai College in 3 straight sets
Defeated Marlborough Girls’ College 3 sets to 1
Defeated Matamata College in 3 straight sets
Defeated St Mary’s College 3 sets to 1
Defeated Manurewa High School in 3 straight sets
Defeated Rangitoto College 3 sets to 1
Defeated Burnside High School 3 sets to 1
Defeated New Plymouth Girls’ High School 3 sets to 1
The Trident High School team was:
*Courtney McConkey (captain), On Court Captain: *Mana Kume (on court captain), *Haley Wiremu, *Sharnaye Hall, *Phoenix Paniora, Maddisen Atkinson, Khiarna Williams, Alana McConkey, Tayla Hudson, Kilani Ruri (* five players that also won the North Island Junior title in 2014).
Management: Coach Hemi Barsdell, Ass Coach Sheralee Mills- Paniora, Ass Coach Maia Westrupp, Manager Sandie Barsdell - Graham Walker has also been instrumental in these girls success having coached the girls for many years.
"We choked in the final against Westlake Boys', thrown off by the pressure of the crowd we lost each set closely. Going home with the silver medal was very hard to take and it took a long time to bounce back." Claire Hunter frankly admits of Manurewa High School’s 2016 National Secondary Schools volleyball final defeat.
The manager of the senior team was much happier on Friday as Henry Ap’e led Manurewa to National glory, a title the best part of four years in the making.
"We trained pretty much every day and some of us have travelled to Fiji, Thailand, America, Wellington and Nelson to play with school, rep and club teams. I am really proud of the boys," hailed Ap'e.
For the past three years Manurewa have been the Auckland Senior Champions. Most of the team members have been involved with the squad since 2014, a breakthrough year for Manurewa volleyball.
"I started playing volleyball a few years before College. I started taking it seriously in Year 9. In 2014 we won the junior Auckland and North Island titles. I love the thrill of the game and the team culture," Ap’e enthuses.
In 2015 Manurewa bombed at Nationals and finished in a disappointing ninth place. Ap’e, a New Zealand age-group rep, became captain in 2016 and was identified as a suitable skipper because of his natural leadership skills.
"My job is to encourage the boys and be as positive as I can. We have so much talent here. The future is really positive too," Ap’e says.
With the memory of 2016 spurring them on, Manurewa steamrolled their way to the Auckland title dropping just three sets to Takapuna Grammar School.
At Nationals Manurewa breezed through their initial pool games until they come unstuck against perennial powerhouse Western Heights High School. Was there are fear things could become implode again?
"It was disappointing to lose to Western Heights, but we had to stay positive. It was a mental thing." Ap’e insists.
Western Heights would be the side to unravel as Manurewa regrouped to make the final against Orewa College, a school they had trounced in the Auckland competition.
"The strategy for the final was to play our own game. There is a big difference between Auckland and Nationals so we had to bring our A game, but our own game." Ap'e says.
Manurewa made an assured start and captured the first set 25-16. Two close sets followed, but Manurewa avoided the mistakes of the previous year to prevail 25-23, 25-23.
"I was actually a bit sad after we won because it was then I realised it would be my last game of volleyball for Manurewa. It's so exciting. It's a great achievement by the team." Ap’e reflects.
Ap'e, the Auckland MVP, won't be playing his last game of volleyball. He is hunting a scholarship in the US and was approached by agents at Nationals.
Manurewa is a decile one school so money to support the program isn't always easy to come by. PlaceMakers and Auckland Motors Mitsubishi have been particularly keen supporters.
Three Manurewa High School players made the tournament team: Wanyae Suafo’a
Henry Ap’e and Tala Potifara (Tournament MVP).
Huge shout out to 2017 NZ Secondary Schools Volleyball Champions Trident High School (girls) and Manurewa High School (boys). But also a great to see a number of students from various schools making the two tournament teams.
Boys Tournament Team
Billy Johnston - Western Heights High School
Tyran Gillespie - Western Heights High School
Jac Roberts - Takapuna Grammar
Ryan Forlong - Tauranga Boys High School
Tane MacDonald - Waimea College
Ryan Gunn - Rangitoto College
Jed Melvin - Orewa College
Cameron Dooley - Orewa College
Henry Ape - Manurewa High School
Wanyae Suafoa - Manurewa High School
Keenan Hodge - Takapuna Grammar
Tala Potifara - Manurewa High School
Girls Tournament Team
Theresa Ngata - Aorere College
Maya Dickson - New Plymouth Girls High School
Indiana Aiono - St. Mary’s College
Leni-Lia Moananu - St. Mary’s College
Renae Watson - Rangitoto College
Jasmine Milton - Rangitoto College
Tamara Otene - Westlake Girls High School
Ariane Pola - Westlake Girls High School
Chloe Mikaera - Burnside High School
Marlene Jahn - Burnside High School
Mana Kume - Trident High School
Phoenix Paniara - Trident High School
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