Auckland champions Westlake Girls' High School became the national champions at the 50th Secondary Schools Volleyball Championships in Palmerston North yesterday when they overcame the top Bay of Plenty team Otumoetai College in straight sets.

In each of the first two sets the Takapuna-based team pulled in front of their Tauranga opponents early in the set and held the lead throughout, on the back of some powerful outside hitting by Tamara Otene and Rachael Webster.

Coached by the very experience Stewart Henderson, 13-times champions Otumoetai kept the scoreline much closer in the third set but just could not get far enough in front to take the set, giving Westlake an unexpectedly straightforward victory.

For coach John Howard, a former Tauranga Boys' College First XV captain and volleyball star, the team's win marked a welcome return to the winner's podium, having coached top club women's sides Sparta and Akarana several decades ago.

Scores: Westlake GHS b Otumoetai College 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-21).

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