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 )
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