Sacred Heart’s Lani Manusina has heart set on top-16

Lani Manusina is aiming to end her school volleyball career on a high.

The Sacred Heart star will be attending her fourth national secondary schools’ tournament, in Palmerston North next week, and wants her side to make the top 16.

Manusina was a member of the 2012 Sacred Heart team which made the top 16 but that is rare territory for a Wellington school.

It was the first time a Wellington school had made the top division for some years and none has reached the same heights since.

Chilton St James were fourth in the second division last year, with Sacred Heart 11th, while Sacred Heart were sixth in division two in 2013.

The current Sacred Heart side has a solid core of year 13 players, most of whom are in their fourth years in the senior squad, and had five players selected for the regional tournament team.

“We are really tight, like sisters and it’s like a second family,” Manusina said. “It’s our last year together and we want to go hard and try to make the top 16.”

The team showed it was on track for a good showing at the nationals by winning the Wellington regional tournament this month, beating Naenae in the final.

Sacred Heart’s regional placings meant they are seeded 19th for the nationals, and Naenae 29th.

The 32 teams in the top grade are split into eight pools, with the first two from each pool going through to the first-division playoffs. The tournament begins on Monday.

Manusina, a left-hander, was the MVP at the regional tournament. She was selected for the North Island under-19 team last year, and hopes to be a contender for the national side this year.

She did not take up competitive volleyball till she was a year 10 and describes herself as a utility player. “I play anywhere, though I don’t set.”

She has long been a standout player in the Wellington competition and has been selected for the regional tournament team for three successive years, as has Naenae’s Diana Oloapu.

Thirteen Wellington teams will be playing in the girls’ section at Palmerston North, including the Sacred Heart second team, in a competition that has attracted almost 100 teams.

St Pat’s Town will be the only Wellington team in the top 32 in the boys’ division and will be seeded 31st after winning the Wellington regionals.

Four of the Town squad made the regional tournament team, including Tino Lavea who was named MVP and best spiker.

WINNING TEAMS AT REGIONALS

St Pat’s Town: Jacob Turrell, John Sio, Francis Pedersen, Connor Giannotti, Samuel Baylis, Tino Lavea, Grayson Whitman, Uelese Sauila, Bailey Douglas-Vitaliano, Junior Eliu.

Sacred Heart: Danielle Tafili, Onolina Lemana, Aicha Ahloo, Lani Manusina, Juliana Perez, Victoria Duffy, Tuanai Tefoto, Jahnay Pirihi, Evamarina Asovale, Brooklyn Siemonek, Malia Poleo, Angelina Paio.

Tournament teams – boys: Tino Lavea (Town), Jacob Turrell (Town), James McInnes (Wellington High), Connor Gianotti (Town), Alfraido Tosime (Poriorua), Chris Burke (Tawa), Phillip Filipo (Bishop Viard), Laurence Webster (Wellington High), Lionel Taito (Taita), Francis Pedersen (Town), Thomas Gibson (Wellington High), Junior Mase (Taita).

Girls: Lani Manusina (Sacred Heart), Julianna Perez (Sacred Heart), Onolina Lemana (Sacred Heart), Danielle Tafili (Sacred Heart), Diana Oloapu (Naenae), Lotte Spanoghe (Wellington Girls), Victoria Duffy (Sacred Heart), Fonofa Fale (Naenae), April Taualapiu (Naenae), Valerie Taito (Taita), Pisa Mase (Taita), Punipuao Paipa (Porirua), Nadine Pritchard (St Mary’s).