Western Heights High School has a proud history in volleyball. The key to success is the pathway from junior to senior and last week they proved the latest crop of juniors are full of potential.
Silver medals are great but when it came to last week's North Island Secondary Schools Junior Volleyball Championship, Western Heights High School wanted nothing but gold.
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The school has made a habit of finishing second at the tournament in recent years but this time went a step further, beating Whakatāne High School 2-0 (25-15, 25-23) in the final in Mount Maunganui.
Western Heights High School head of volleyball Eugene Bogun said the team was "up and down" throughout the tournament but he was pleased with the way they came together as a team.
"They had some really good moments throughout the week and a few tough ones but I think the tough ones brought them together more. They were able to put it together on the last two days, in the quarter-final, semi-final and ultimately the final.
"We've won a few now but over the last seven years we've been in the final six times and only won once. It was good to get rid of the silver medal for once and actually take the gold. It's well deserved - the boys worked really hard to get there."
Bogun said it was normal for a junior side to show some inconsistency throughout a tournament.
"On the first couple of days you're starting at 8.30am and then your last game's not until 7pm. The boys were quite tired, basically it's a mental thing and they found that quite hard but they stuck together.
"They do the basics very well, they're a very skilful team. They're probably one of the smaller teams there but they pass and serve really well and they're really aggressive too. They like to hit the ball hard and really enjoy that part of the game."
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He said there was plenty of tough competition at the tournament, particularly from within the Bay of Plenty - five Bay schools made the top eight.
"There were lots of teams that could've won it. Our boys were ultimately able to do it over the whole week. There's lots of potential if they can keep their mind in the game and do the hard work. They're not the biggest boys around but there's some really good athletes.
"A few of them have made Bay of Plenty representative teams and they head away next weekend to Hawke's Bay. Otherwise they're just getting ready for senior volleyball in term one.
"We've got a really good pathway - we've got three boys in North America at the moment on volleyball scholarships and they're doing really well. They're loving the professional environment of the sport but also being able to study and extend themselves in the classroom.
"That's what we try to push, it's not just about achieving on the court, it's achieving off it as well. Our boys seem to be doing that which is good."
Team captain Charlie Apperley, 15, said getting the win was "amazing".
"A lot of hard work went into it - we kept high spirits and just played our best volleyball. We didn't get down or anything, we just played volleyball really.
"The second set [in the final] was a lot closer. We just had to forget about the last point if we lost it and carry on."
Charlie said the team was close on and off the court, which was crucial.
"You need that chemistry on the course. I think all of us, when we started at the school got told to play volleyball. It's fun to play with your mates and the coaches help us a lot, they keep us grounded too."
North Island Secondary Schools Junior Volleyball Championship Results
1st Western Heights High A
2nd Mount Maunganui A
3rd Whakatāne A
4th Tauranga Boys' A
5th Bethlehem A
6th Trident A
7th Te Puke A
8th Ōtūmoetai A
1st Trident A
2nd Taupō A
3rd Tauranga Girls' A
4th Katikati A
5th Ōtūmoetai A
6th Ōtūmoetai B
7th Te Puke A
8th Western Heights High A