Tauranga Girls' College have one primary goal this week - to take out their Upper North Island Secondary Schools division and return to the top grade next year.

The school's netball team is one of 120 teams competing in this week's Upper North Island Secondary Schools (UNISS) tournament, hosted by Mount Maunganui's Harbourside Netball Centre.

The tournament, which is held between September 3-7, allows schools to enter their top netball team to play games of four 10-minute quarters in four grades, A, B, C and D, over five days of competition.

At the end of the week the bottom five teams in A, B and C move down a grade and the top five teams in B, C and D move up for the following year.


Last year Tauranga Girls' College finished in the bottom five of A Grade, along with Mount Maunganui College, and both were relegated to the B division, which is something Girls' College coach Janelle Nee wants to reverse this year.

And judging by the start of their campaign, that goal is not out of reach.

Tauranga Girls' played Huntly in the opening round of the competition yesterday morning, securing a comfortable 40-15 win and getting their tournament week off to a good start.

Although Huntly dominated the first quarter, the start of the second quarter evened out, and by the end of it, Tauranga Girls' College had taken control of the game.

The Tauranga netballers continued that control for the remaining quarters.

Strong defensive play throughout the court proved too much for Huntly by the third quarter, with goal defence Kenza Taele and wing attack Luisa Togotogorua particularly hungry for the ball, reading the game and picking up any ball possible.

Goal attack Britney Emery controlled her opposition in the circle by positioning herself well for the pass into the circle and playing a calm and focused game.

"We had a bit of a slow start," Nee said.


However, she has a lot of faith in her girls and knows they are a "full 40-minute team".

She says starting with a win is always a good feeling and is looking forward to the games ahead.

"I'm just really proud of them," she says.

"We're really aiming to win B Grade."

She says they have "built a strong unit", supportive team culture and all the girls work hard for each other, making her confident they can move up for next year's competition.

"I think what it comes down to is these girls trust each other."

Tauranga Girls' second game was against Tai Wananga yesterday afternoon, winning 38-18.

No Tauranga schools are playing in the A Grade, with Whakatane's Trident High School and Rotorua's Rotorua Girls' High School the only Bay of Plenty schools represented in the top grade.

Nee says that's where they aim to be next year.

Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty's Natalie Kelly says 52 teams from the Bay of Plenty and Waikato zone were competing in this year's competition, which was the pinnacle of the season for secondary schools netball.

Kelly says the top six teams from this competition go on to compete against the top teams from the Lower North Island and South Island competitions at the hotly contested New Zealand Secondary Schools Netball Champs.

They will be held in Timaru between October 9 and 12.

Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty community netball manager Alison Wieringa says she would love to see a few more local sides move up to the top grade next year and be eligible for the nationals.

But she says the competition is not only for the top secondary schools teams, but it also provides development opportunities for coaches, managers, umpires and officials, while also giving spectators quality netball.

This year, they have introduced 5.30pm and 6.30pm games to ensure people who have to work do not have to miss out, she says.

"We want to have all these kids have the best experience out there, so they stay in the game."

Bay of Plenty schools playing in the UNISS tournament:

A Grade: Trident High School, Rotorua Girls' High School

B Grade: Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga Girls' College, Western Heights High School, Opotiki College, Taupo-Nui-a-Tia, Otumoetai College, Katikati College.

C Grade: Te Puke High School, Whakatane High School, Tauhara College, Bethlehem College, Aquinas College.

D Grade: Papamoa College, Edgecumbe College, Rotorua Lakes High School, Te Wharekura o Mauao, TKK Rotorua (a composite team made up of smaller Rotorua schools), Mount Maunganui Invitational, Tauranga Girls' College Invitational