Nayland College students Sophie Young and Greta Stjade took up beach volleyball as a hobby during the indoor off-season.
The 17-year-olds say the sport was just “something to do in summer”, but now the pair can call themselves national champions.
Sophie and Greta beat out 60 other teams at the National Senior Secondary School Beach Volleyball Championships in Mount Maunganui at the weekend, a first-ever title for a Tasman team.
“When we stop to think about it, I guess it is quite a big deal,” says Sophie.
Greta says, with the North Islanders having far more experience, they certainly didn’t expect to be crowned champions.
“We were definitely surprised, it was quite a shock.”
The teens made their way to the final after beating New Plymouth Girls 2-0 in the quarters and Otumoetai College 2-1 in the semis to set up a showdown with the heavily-favoured Westlake Girls.
With crowd support firmly in favour of the Aucklanders, Sophie and Greta went about spoiling the party.
“There was a lot of pressure, we knew they were very good players, so we just wanted to give it our best.”
After sneaking home in the first and dropping the second, Nayland stormed home to claim the final set and the title.
“We were down by quite a lot but then we got back as many points through our serves as we could and managed to catch up.”
The pair say it took a while for their achievement to sink in.
“We didn’t really feel anything, we were so hyped up,” Greta says.
The Nayland duo made a stunning statement on day one, knocking off the second seeds in Whakatane. The pair say their most polished performance came in the semi-final.
Greta and Sophie have only been playing together since just before Christmas with Greta having won a scholarship to the school and moving from Latvia.
“We play indoor mostly and have only been a team for a couple of months, we had to squeeze in as many trainings as we could.”
They say coach Armins Vensbergs was hugely influential.
“He is a very good beach volleyball player and told us how to play smart ball in gaps,” Sophie says.
The focus will now shift to indoor volleyball as the two prepare for nationals and a trip to Hawaii in June.