Holly Chandler, left, and Natasha Bannister have been selected for the national under-23 volleyball team. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

Volleyballers make national team

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Two Tasman volleyball players have taken very different paths on their way to gaining selection for the New Zealand under-23 women’s team to play at the Asian championships in Thailand.

Holly Chandler and Natasha Bannister, both 19, made the 12-player squad after attending trials for the national team in Auckland earlier this year.

The team heads to Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand for next month’s Asian championship which is also a world qualifying tournament.

Natasha’s selection is a continuation of the rapid progress she has made in the sport since she started playing seriously just two years ago.

The former Tapawera Area School student played for the Nelson College for Girls B team after moving into town in 2015 before graduating to the A team last year.

Natasha also made the national under-19 that played in the Asia champs at Nakhon Ratchasima last year and, although she is still eligible for the under-19 team, made another big step up when she was named in the under-23 team.

Interestingly, she says the volleyball courts in Nakhon Ratchasima are located on the fifth floor of a giant shopping mall.

“I’d played socially when I was at Tapawera and only started playing seriously two years ago but I picked it up really quickly,” Natasha says.

“I wanted to play volleyball because it’s a really good team game and it was a new challenge.”

Natasha’s emergence as a top volleyballer has also attracted the attention of overseas coaches and she is presently in negotiations with colleges in the US where she hopes to secure a sporting scholarship.

In contrast, Holly has been playing volleyball since she was a year 10 student and has been a regular in national beach and indoor age-group teams.

The talented passer-hitter was always going to be in contention for further national honours this year although she only just made it after a serious ankle injury very nearly spiked her ambitions of making the under-23 team.

Holly says she couldn’t have recovered so quickly without help from her father Lyndon, who is a physiotherapist and former top 800m runner.

Lyndon not only provided all the necessary intensive treatment, he also encouraged his daughter to stay positive and continue training despite the disappointment of being sidelined.

Holly and Natasha will be attending a training camp with the national under-23 team in Christchurch at Easter before heading to Thailand for the May 13-21 tournament.