Ella Akkerman had enjoyed the best beach volleyball season in her young career when it got even better.
The Aquinas College Year 13 student was selected last week in the New Zealand team to compete at the Bahamas 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in July.
The 17-year-old will team up with partner Jasmine Milton from Rangitoto College in the girls' doubles event. They are part of the 34-strong New Zealand team to compete in the Bahamas alongside 1300 athletes from 70 countries.
The duo's form over the summer in the Open Women's Pro-Tour series against the best senior women pairs, and at the Bahamas' trial, captured the attention of the national selectors.
"I had an awesome partner [Jasmine], and we really set ourselves up in terms of training. It was awesome," Ella said.
"Our goal was to make the team, and we were hoping all season to get there."
Last year Ella competed at the Asian Championships but said it would be a bigger step up in the Bahamas.
"We are both excited to grow together as a team as well as have the experience and do as well as you possibly can over there.
"If I look back on myself three years ago I didn't really know much but to be where I am now is pretty cool."
Playing much more experienced opponents over the summer on the Open Women's Pro-Tour was invaluable for Ella and Jasmine. The pair performed above expectations to record three top-10 finishes.
"We were pretty stoked. We didn't let the whole age gap or the whole open thing get into our heads. We just played as hard as we could," Ella said.
"Last year I entered, and you get completely smashed because it is open women's, but it is the whole experience as well that makes you so much better as a player.
"Then you compare yourself going from open women's to playing people your own age and the difference is huge."
Ella is also a top performer at netball and in indoor volleyball with Bay of Plenty's senior women's team in the interprovincial championships (IPC).
But this is her final year playing all three.
"I have been told to stop netball, but I have played since Year 3 at primary school, so I really wanted to have my last year with the same girls and just have fun.
"My beach will take priority, and my coaches are fine with that."
Giving back to her school in her final year is also important to Ella.
She is the co-leader with Josef Schuler of the Aquinas College sports committee.
"Being sports committee co-leader has been an awesome experience for me and Jo has been awesome as well. You get to know your whole year group better and begin to realise "wow this is my last year" and make the most of it."