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!
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand