Tikipunga High School's boys' volleyball team performed above expectations at the National Secondary Schools Volleyball Championships in Palmerston North.
Coming into the 145-team tournament with a ranking of 19th, the Northland team started well, downing top North Shore side Westlake Boys High in a tight five-set match, before losing by a similar narrow margin to Otumoetai College, one of the title favourites.
Tikipunga went on to beat Christchurch's Aranui High in three straight sets last week to earn a place in the top-16 rounds.
In that section, they faced regular finalists Western Heights High, of Rotorua, losing in four sets before bouncing back with 3-1 and 3-0 wins against top Canterbury and Auckland teams, Riccarton High and Orewa College, to earn their quarter-final spot.
An early start on Thursday morning against another Bay of Plenty contender, Mount Maunganui College was perhaps a game too much for the northern boys, as they succumbed in three sets. In the end Tikipunga finished seventh in the top grade.
Other Northland sides competing included Tikipunga's girls and Whangarei Girls' High School.