By GARY BIRKETT
CANTERBURY’S Burnside High School had to travel a rocky road before locking down their maiden division one girls’ volleyball title with a pulsating 3-2 win over Waimea College Gold (Tasman), in the 47th New Zealand secondary schools senior championships at Arena Manawatu last Friday.
A day after coming from two sets down to beat Otumoetai College 3-2 in the semifinals, Burnside showed all their fighting qualities to get home 19-25, 25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 15-12 over defending champions Waimea in an all-South Island affair at the NZ Community Trust sponsored event.
Led by outstanding spikers, tournament MVP Alice Zeimann and Petra Manderson, with class setter and captain Nicky Pio cleverly pulling the strings, Burnside’s quest for an elusive title ended in a jubilant pile of bodies and lots of emotion.
And the players have been waking on air since then as Canterbury’s biggest school celebrated their success.
Burnside coach Sam Ryburn was full of praise for both sides after an epic final.
“They had a game plan and really took it to us, it was a humdinger.’’
He said the experienced Burnside side had been a “phenomenal group of young ladies who had worked extremely hard all year’’ and were close on and off the court.
“That showed through in both the final and semi … they were never going to roll over and die.’’
Ryburn also praised the huge support from parents and school staff, with many watching a livestream showing of the match in the Burnside staffroom.
Top Waimea setter Hannah Davenhill and dangerous middle hitter Georgia Davies were constant threats, their blocking and hitting causing major damage, but gracious losers Waimea ultimately came up just short.
IN THE senior boys’ final, Western Heights HS (Rotorua) clinched their 10th national title with a stellar 3-0 (25-23 25-21 25-20) win over Adelaide’s Heathfield HS.
Heathfield had a great run into the final, but could not stop Western Heights from surging away.
“The boys have come a long way and all of the coaching staff are really proud of them,” said Western Heights assistant coach Dave Apete, as they sealed their first title since 2012.
Three Western Heights players, Billy Johnstone, Taiwere Morrison and setter Kahurangi Robinson (MVP), were selected in the NZSS tournament team.
TOURNAMENT TEAMS NZSS WEBSITE SECTION
VOLLEYBALL NZ MEDIA MANAGER: GARY BIRKETT