Rotorua’s Western Heights High School head into the New Zealand Secondary Schools Volleyball Championships starting this coming Sunday in Palmerston North as defending Boys’ champions. Last year, Western Heights won all nine games and beat Australia’s Heathfield High School 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) in the Division 1 final, with Mt Maunganui College claiming third place overall.
College Sport Media caught up with Western Heights High School’s coach Eugene Bogun as the team prepares for this year’s tournament.
How is the WHHS team looking forward to this year’s tournament, and going in as defending champions?
The team has had a disruptive build up with multiple injuries throughout the local Bay of Plenty competition. Slowly we are getting a full complement to training so that is a pleasing factor heading into the national champs. Being defending champs adds more pressure on the team as they know that they will have big targets on their backs as everyone will want to knock them over at any stage. The boys just love playing volleyball so they are excited about five days of volley and hanging out with each other instead of being stuck in the classroom.
On the court, how have preparations gone?
The team has played well during the local Bay of Plenty competition where any of the local schools could beat one another on their day. During the recent semi-final we were pushed to the limit by a strong and aggressive Trident team where we were very lucky to come away with a 3-2 victory. In the final we played Tauranga Boys’ College who were also missing key players due to injury. We came away with a 3-0 victory but again the game was a lot closer than the score suggests.
How many of the players from 2015 are back this year, or is this a new-look team this year?
The team is made up of four players from the winning 2015 team and eight from the 2015 B team. All players have played at senior nationals tournaments now so have good experience coping with the pressures a week-long tournament brings.
What are the keys to defending the title going to be for Western Heights, and who are the schools to beat?
We have to forget about 2015 and go into the tournament not to defend the title but to actually win it. We know about how strong the local Bay of Plenty teams are, and that there are many other strong teams out there, especially from Auckland, North Harbour and in the South Island, so winning the title will be a challenge for any team attending this year’s championship.
The other teams to look out for include Manurewa High School, Westlake Boys’ High School, Orewa College, Rangitoto College, Otumoetai High School, Trident High School, Tauranga Boys College, Waimea College and Riccarton High School, and a dark horse would be our Western Heights High School B Team.
Last year was the school’s 10th national title win, please tell us a bit about volleyball at Western Heights High School?
Most of the kids that enter our gym get their first taste of volleyball during year 9. From there the students use the gym during their own time playing during interval and lunch breaks.
The volleyball program was set up by Mr Phil George who coached volleyball at our school for 20 years. During that time he developed what we still live by today, instilling in our players a love for volleyball, representing our school and also how we work in the classroom. During Mr George’s 20 years he coached the Senior Boys’ teams to seven national titles. In 1996 Mr Alani Samia took over and won the senior national title as head coach. He is now coaching at Napier Boys High.
Paora Morrison has also played a huge part in the school’s volleyball history with his teams claiming many titles. He has coached two teams to the senior national title and also three teams to junior North Island titles. He is on a sabbatical this year working on gaining a Diploma in Te Reo Maori hence why he is not coaching the team this year.
New Zealand Secondary Schools Volleyball Championships
What: 2016 New Zealand Secondary Schools Volleyball Championships (Boys and Girls)
When: Sunday 3 April – Friday 8 April
Where: Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North
Coverage: Follow Volleyball New Zealand on Facebook here (link to https://www.facebook.com/Volleyball-New-Zealand-225445877479376/?fref=ts ) Livestreaming of matches on courts 1-4 here ( link at http://livestream.com/accounts/1103671 )
Being the daughter a of former New Zealand representative rower and volleyballer and the youngest of six siblings, three of whom have represented New Zealand in volleyball or basketball, it was perhaps inevitable that Eloise van Velthooven would wear the black uniform too.
After previously playing volleyball for the New Zealand U18s, then 17-year old Marlborough Girls’ College student Eloise graduated to the full New Zealand team last April at the South Pacific Challenge Tournament in Auckland, and played for them again earlier this year.
Later this month she heads off to the USA on a volleyball scholarship to start the next chapter in her volleyball career. “I’m heading to Parkland College in Champaign, which is south of Chicago in Illinois,” she told College Sport Media.
She joins a winning side, the Parkland Cobras. “Last year they were crowned National Junior Division 2 champions – they didn’t lose a game, going 57-0.”
Their statistics were impressive. They played 180 sets during the year and winning 171 and losing just nine. Of the 57 matches, they won 49 of them 3-0.
She will be the only international player in their squad, replacing an Australian player.
“Pre-season starts on 1 August and then the first game towards the end of August, so I’ll be hitting the ground running.”
Eloise has been to the USA before, to Florida in 2014 with the New Zealand U18 team.
She’s not the only New Zealander volleyballer preparing to head over to the USA shortly. “There are several of us volleyballers going over to university, so that’s great there’s a group of us.”
Her good friend from Marlborough Girls’, Lily O’Fagan, has also got a full tennis scholarship to Boston University.
Eloise is expecting a different style of volleyball. “They play a much faster game. New Zealand’s quite a slow game, so it will be a quite a change but hopefully I will adapt quickly.”
Parkland College is a junior college, so the idea is she will move on somewhere else after a couple of years there. At this stage academically she’s interested in studying Kinesiology – that’s the study of human movement – but her options are open.
Eloise played for Marlborough Girls’ College for the five years she was at secondary school. In her Year 11 they came third and then then they finished 11th in both her years 12 and 13. Long-serving Marlborough Girls’ coach, Alister McKenzie, is also the New Zealand Senior Women’s coach.
She has also played for the local team, the Marlborough Redbacks, and has been playing for New Zealand junior and most recently senior volleyball sides since 2013.
Eloise’s mum Deidre represented New Zealand in volleyball and her older brothers and sisters played.
So it was natural that she took to the game.
“I played a bit of volleyball in primary school but actually found it a bit boring back then. The ball went over the net and it seemed it didn’t really come back much!
“But then I took it up properly at secondary school and started enjoying it, plus with my family playing the game I guess it was kind of in my blood to play too.”
As well as volleyball, Eloise’s other sports have been netball, basketball and rowing. She was captain of both the Marlborough Girls’ senior volleyball and basketball teams last year and her and national ranked track sprinter Lucy Sheat shared the school’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year award.
As well as her mum being a former New Zealand volleyball representative, her father Luke rowed for New Zealand and is a current national junior rowing selector.
Two of her older sisters played age grade basketball for New Zealand and one other in the senior New Zealand volleyball team.
Recently, Eloise has been training hard at home, getting herself fit and ready for the challenges ahead.
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