Tauranga Boys' College headlined solid results for Bay of Plenty teams at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Underwater Hockey Championships last week.
The tournament, run for the 35th time, was held at the Wellington Aquatic Centre and Tauranga Boys' claimed their third consecutive senior open title, beating Glendowie College 2-1 in Sunday's final.
Ōtūmoetai College were runners-up in the senior girls' division while Tauranga Girls' College placed seventh. Trident High School were fourth in the senior open division. In the junior girls' division, John Paul College placed fourth while Trident claimed sixth place.
Tauranga Boys' College coach Ken Knowlson says the team worked hard all season.
"Three of them played for New Zealand and they were training eight times a week so they are very fit. The rest of the team trained Mondays and Thursdays and played in club games twice a week. Everyone has got stuck in and worked pretty hard on fitness and skills.
"When you have a team that are very fit and has very skilful players, to a player in his first year, it is all about getting the balance right and getting them working together. You get them in close proximity together so they can pass the puck. I split practice into three sections – fitness, skills and game. Part of the trick is to make it enjoyable, they have to enjoy doing the activities."
Knowlson says the team were nervous facing Howick College in the semifinal, who had beaten them in a qualifying tournament earlier this year, but overcame them 3-1. The hat trick of titles has been built on players rising through the ranks.
"There was quite a strong junior team providing players at TBC, it meant when they came up to seniors they were quite skilful already. Over the years you develop drills and you customise them to each player and figure out what they need to work on."
Knowlson also received a service award from New Zealand Underwater Hockey at the event.
Ōtūmoetai's senior girls' coach Kelly Saunders was proud of her team's effort, after taking only eight players to the tournament.
"It was an amazing result and such a good tournament for the girls."
Ōtūmoetai were beaten 4-2 in the final by Nelson College for Girls, who beat them by the same score in pool play earlier in the tournament.
"They play a different formation than us. We struggled a little bit with that dynamic, but they pushed until the last minute and never gave up.
"We were a small team of eight, most teams had 10 players, so had four subs. Some teams even had 12 players. We worked on a lot of fitness this year, having a small team meant we were very much fitness orientated.
"The team stuck together, when it didn't go their way they put it aside and moved forward how they want to move forward. We wanted to play our game plan and stick to our structure."
Saunders says the team showed a lot of commitment this season.
"We had two junior players, and that is quite a step up, but they were never seen as junior players. We lose four players next year, I have coached those players since they were year 9, but we are working closely with the school to get more players."
New Zealand Secondary Schools Underwater Hockey Championships
Bay of Plenty team results:
Tauranga Boys' College: 1st senior open
Ōtūmoetai College: 2nd senior girls
Trident High School: 4th senior open
John Paul College: 4th junior girls
Trident High School: 6th junior girls
Tauranga Girls' College: 7th senior girls