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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