Volleyball has been on the rise at Te Awamutu College since 2013, when long-serving physical education teacher Keith Bain re-introduced the sport to the school programme.
His hard work paid dividends last week when the Te Awamutu College Junior Girls team took out the Waikato Secondary Schools title — the first division one win for a local side.
The girls played over seven weeks at The Peak at Rototuna — two games per night every Thursday as well as referring duty.
After five weeks of round-robin play, with best of three sets matches, week six was to determine the play-off positions and week seven was finals night.
Te Awamutu worked out early in the rounds that their main opposition would be Matamata College and Hillcrest High School.
They lost their only round-robin match to Hillcrest and hoped to meet them again in the final — but it wasn't to be.
Te Awamutu came up against Matamata and prevailed in straight sets 25/16 and 25/13.
Highly favoured Hillcrest met Hamilton Girls' High, the latter taking heart from the tremendous local crowd support to pull off an upset win.
But it wasn't enough to take the final against a well drilled and trained Te Awamutu team — and our girls again won in straight sets 25/19 and 25/16.
Keith described it as a well-deserved win for a great bunch of Year 9 and 10 girls and it will provide a sound base for senior volleyball for the next two to three years.
Since 2013 Keith has been identifying the volleyball talent at the school through the phys ed classes and inviting players to take part.
He starts training skills at the start of the year and puts the teams together, ready to hand over to the coaches for the secondary schools volleyball season.
"Te Awamutu College teams have performed well in Waikato competitions, but the Division 1 win is a great boost," says Keith.
The Te Awamutu College Junior Girls team was coached by head girl Katrina Amituanai, described by Keith as an outstanding player in her own right.
Her participation in playing was cut short by injury.
I met with team captain Amy Reid and players Maude Rewha and Brooke Penny, all Year 10.
The girls said it was great having Katrina as coach.
"She could pass on a lot of knowledge and skills," says Amy.
"But being someone about our age she could connect with the girls as well."
Amy started playing volleyball last year after being encouraged by Keith. He had also spotted Maude's talent, and her friend Amy also talked her into playing.
The pair were named in the Tournament Team of six at the end of the finals and Maude was named player of the tournament.
Amy also turned out for the College Senior B team prior to the junior competition to hone her skills.
Maude heads to the New Zealand training camp later this year and will trial for the U16 team.
Keith says he will be surprised if she doesn't go far in the sport.
Amy joins the College Senior girls' team which is heading to the Gold Coast in December to play in the Australia Volleyball Schools Cup competition.
But first, Amy will take her team to the North Island Secondary Schools Championships at Mount Maunganui, held over five days next week.
Te Awamutu is ranked 12th based on previous years waikato results, but hopes to punch above its weight on the back of results this season.
Senior girls, coached by Alex Mariano and Katrina Amituanai, won Division 5 in their first visit to the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships in April.
Keith says because they finished third in the Waikato competition, their NZSS position was dictated by previous Waikato schools placings.
He is hoping the team qualifies for one of the two Waikato positions in the top 32, Divisions 1 and 2, for the 2020 nationals in Palmerston North after the February/March Waikato Senior competition.