Volleyball nets will take centre stage at Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach this weekend as the country’s up-and-coming stars in the making compete in the annual New Zealand Secondary School Beach Volleyball Championships.
Around 150 teams, including several from the South Island, are expected to take part, with participants competing for a chance to represent New Zealand at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires later this year.
The tournament is a large undertaking, with about 30 nets set up on Main Beach from 8.30am-4.30pm on Saturday, February 3 and Sunday, February 4.
Players compete in teams of two with a round of pool play followed by quarter finals, semi-finals and finals in each of the junior and senior boys and girls’ categories.
Volleyball New Zealand’s beach volleyball director Tim Cleaver says spectators should expect to see some tight competition, with both finalists in last year’s senior girls’ competition back again this year.
Tim says beach volleyball is growing in popularity in New Zealand schools but is geographically dependent on whether there is a beach available to train on.
“We are definitely seeing our depth at the senior level getting a lot better,” he says.
“At the New Zealand Open last weekend, we had a couple of guys who were playing against each other in the secondary school finals a few years ago who knocked out our number two team in New Zealand in the quarter finals.”
Beach volleyball also has to compete with indoor volleyball, which starts in February as well.
“One of the big drawcards for beach volleyball now is that athletes can get scholarships to play at college level in the United States,” says Tim.
Mount Main Beach was also in line to be the venue for New Zealand’s first Oceania Beach Volleyball Tour from February 9-11, however a lack of interest from overseas teams has led to the cancellation of the three-day tournament.