Volleyball Special: Bay schools glory goes on

By Ben Guild

The Bay of Plenty essentially has a mortgage on secondary school volleyball glory.

The two senior trophies stray outside the region every now and then - but never for long.

In the last decade, the senior boys and girls crowns have only left the region three times apiece, with the girls title only residing outside the Bay seven times since 1976.

The boys' championship has only ever left the North Island three times - all to Nelson College - but that has not happened since 1999.

Tauranga Boys' College's top team's title this year marked the tenth time the school won it all - the most ever and one more than rivals Western Heights of Rotorua - while Otumoetai College's 13 senior girls titles are four more than those won by second placed school Western Heights of Rotorua.

Reigning North Island Secondary School junior champions Otumoetai College's nine titles are also the most of any school.

Strong team culture grows champions

Tauranga Boys' College senior boys coach Ben Ormsby, who has represented New Zealand in both indoor and beach volleyball, says having a group of players advancing through a strong age group system together is a big key to the school's consistent success.

"We've had a core group of guys that have been together for a couple of years - some of them three years now," said Ormsby.

"So there was a lot of experience there, and I guess you could say we developed a good team culture stemming from years gone by as well.

"The boys worked really hard, so it was good for them and the school to win nationals - it was awesome."

He believes the immediate future to be as bright as the very recent past, with "five pretty good ones" returning from this year's triumphant squad.



Tauranga Boys' College teacher in charge of volleyball Darrell Boyd believes the Bay to be the home of volleyball in New Zealand.

"A lot of the strength comes from the surrounding region. Bay of Plenty, with Otumoetai College and Western Heights, also has quality coaches. The strength of competition in the Bay allows all our schools to excel."

Boyd says the strong volleyball culture in the area, and the fact volleyball is officially considered a premier summer sport, leads plenty of young people to play Kiwi Volley.

That, in turn, means players arrive at secondary school ready to learn with techniques already honed by years of experience.

The school has about 120 students playing the game, and the results speak for themselves. In the last decade, the top team has finished outside the top five just once, and outside the top three twice.

The team runs a ten player rotation to ensure players get sufficient game time, meaning fringe players get to show their wares for teams in the lower grades.

Top class facilities do not hurt the cause.

"We're fortunate, the only difference between us and other schools, because every school has a gymnasium, is the beach volleyball complex, which most don't have," said Boyd.

"That certainly allows us to keep offering beach volleyball as a viable option for a number of our athletes, and we've had heaps of athletes go on to represent New Zealand at world championships and age group events."


The secret? Choosing the squad early

Former NBA star Allen Iverson famously admonished the need for practice after skipping a training session for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2002.

"We're talking about practice," ranted Iverson.

"I'm in here, and supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean, we're talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game - we're talking about practice ... I mean how silly is that? We're talking about practice."

Otumoetai College volleyball coaches Stewart Henderson and Jenny Kirk, who have coached together on the national level and played leading roles in forming the most successful girls volleyball programme in New Zealand, instead extol the virtues of putting in the hard yards.

"The strength of the programme is the Monday lunchtime after nationals Stu is in the gym with the Year Nines," said Kirk.

"The Year Nine students get looked after just as much as the senior players."

That fervent desire to be better prepared than their rivals - as well as the relatively unique method of selecting squads for nationals six months in advance - has allowed the school to consistently get the jump on many of its rivals.



You certainly cannot argue with the unparalleled results, which include nine players - Cathy Aldridge, Lauren Fleury, Taina Savage, Shannen Bagge, Simone Head, Rachael Morgan, Melissa Cairns, Alyse Barclay and, most recently, Amy Hunter - receiving scholarships from colleges in the United States.

The method of choosing a squad early paid dividends again this year - much to Henderson's surprise.

"If I'm totally honest I didn't expect to win it this year. We had five Year 11 students in the team, which is quite unusual.

"We've got seven players returning next year. Some didn't play that much at nationals but they know that next year is going to be their year."

Many of those players are battle hardened after tough five set wins over Mount Maunganui College and Waimea College at nationals, before more straight-forward victories against Westlake Girls High School and Christchurch Girls' High School.

The school's 13th national girls title, though unexpected, was welcomed by Henderson who was out to bring up his own personal milestone.

"A couple of years ago my players found out I had won nine titles and declared they would win my 10th one for me," said Henderson.

"We won the silver, and the same again last year. This year I had a text from one of my players on scholarship in the States, Melissa Cairns. It read: 'Stu's won his 10th title - I can die happy'."

Cairns was just one of a large community following the school's fortunes every step of the way - live streaming of the games at nationals were watched by more than 1300 people.

Henderson, who has been involved in the programme since the late-1970s, puts the Bay's domination of the sport at secondary school level down to a combination of nature and nurture.

"The Bay, I think, with the beach thrown in, has a very strong reputation in volleyball and we've got the coaches to maintain that.

"A lot of the coaches here have played for Bay of Plenty schools and then come back as coaches - the whole thing perpetuates itself."

The school has seven players heading to national age group trials - not bad considering volleyball is the most played summer sport for girls and second overall only to netball.


Bay boys success

Bay of Plenty schools have claimed 27 of the 45 senior boys national titles available since the tournament began in 1969:

Tauranga Boys' College: 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1989, 1997, 2006, 2007, 2013.

Otumoetai College: 1981, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008.

Western Heights: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2012.

Trident High School: 2010

Kawerau College: 1994

Whakatane High School: 1991

NZ team

Bay of Plenty players filled seven of the 12 spots in the 2013 senior boys NZ Secondary School tournament team:

Tauranga Boys' College: Max Schroeder (player of the tournament), Bradley Fullerton, Caleb Aperahama

Otumoetai College: Daryl Lewis, Liam Matheson

Western Heights: Junior Taia, Talor Kahu

Bay girls success

Bay of Plenty schools have claimed 31 of the 45 senior girls national titles available since the 1969:

Otumoetai College: 1976, 1977, 1979, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2013.

Tauranga Girls' College: 1981, 1983, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012

Te Puke High School: 1982, 1984, 1986, 1992

Western Heights: 1978

Whakatane High School: 1980, 1985

Kawerau College: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995

NZ team

Bay of Plenty players took four of the 12 spots available in the senior girls tournament team:

Otumoetai College: Kelcy Ballantyne, Claudia Richardson, Abbey Meredith

Mount College: Claudia Colenso-Neenee

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 01 Sep 2016 03:38:01 Processing Time: 557ms