The upper North Island's best secondary school netballers will battle it out in Mount Maunganui next week, including teams from Rotorua.
The week-long tournament comprises four grades, with 32 teams in each. Rotorua Girls' High School are in the A Grade, Western Heights High School are in the B Grade, John Paul College are in the C Grade and Rotorua Lakes High School and Te Kura Kaupapa in the D Grade.
Rotorua Girls' finished 25th in the A Grade last year and coach Carol Holt said the team's first goal was to make the top 16, then they would look at qualifying for nationals.
They go up against Trident High School, One Tree Hill College and Rutherford College in their pool.
"If you get in the top six you go to nationals. We're in the top 32 teams and it would be nice to finish in the top 16, the top half of the draw, and I think anything can happen after that."
She said the school's netball academy focused on providing a platform for long-term success. An important aspect of that was having a range of ages in the team.
"We've got four Year 13s, three Year 11s and the rest are Year 12. It's a good mix of age groups and I'm trying to ensure we're not just good for one or two seasons, we've always got players coming through. I feel we have that as a skill.
"I think the thing that sets us apart this year is there are some really multi-talented girls and some great athletes. However, like any secondary school sport, it comes down to what they bring on the day."
Holt said the team's strength on the court was their bond.
"Some of them have played together for at least three years now, so there's an invisible connection between some of them where they know where each other are going to be. It's a good balance of girls, the young ones bring a 'no fear' approach, while the seniors bring the maturity and balance.
"The four Year 13 girls are very good leaders, I've got some really good leaders. I just feel this year, there's a really good mix of girls who really get along."
The Rotorua Girls' team play in the Rotorua Netball Premier 1 competition against fully grown women which, Holt said, toughened them up.
"It's a great experience, but I do believe playing against school girls is different because they're all fit and all have a flair about them which is different to playing women who have been in the game for awhile.
"I believe playing against women on a Saturday makes the girls tough in themselves and in their physical presence, to never bow down to anything. But, going up against schoolgirls will test their speed and fitness.
"Nationals is the pinnacle of netball, I think every team in that A Grade is aiming to be there. The great thing about it is every year, with schoolgirls, the teams are different and anything is up for grabs for every team, no matter where you are seeded," she said.
The tournament runs from Monday to Friday at Mount Maunganui's Harbourside Netball Centre.