Senior Micah Christenson, whose superlative effort lifted Kamehameha to its first state volleyball title in nine years, is the top player on the Fab 15 team
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 12, 2011
He twists and turns, springs up and dives to the floor.
Micah Christenson is arguably the finest 18-and-under setter in the nation. His play on the junior national team for several years is proof of that.
For now, though, Kamehameha fans are just happy that the versatile Christenson led the Warriors to their first boys volleyball Division I state championship in nine years. He did it as an outside hitter.
To get there and hoist the trophy, the Warriors and first-year coach Kainoa Downing needed a superlative effort from Christenson. They got it. Easily.
Coaches and media voted the near 6-foot-6 senior to the Star-Advertiser Boys Volleyball All-State player of the year honors.
Christenson, a four-time All-State Fab 15 selection, became player of the year in volleyball for the first time after coming close in the past. He has already been a two-time Star-Advertiser All-State basketball player of the year.
In his four years atop Kapalama Heights, Christenson has helped the Warriors capture three state championships in all. Another former volleyball/basketball standout, Punahou coach Rick Tune, found the honor for Christenson to be fitting.
"Micah's really seasoned. Just a gamer. He always keeps a cool calmness about him. He has the confidence to step up in any situation, whatever challenge is there. He's extremely skilled, which doesn't hurt. He has the right mental approach to the game," Tune said.
In five meetings this spring, Punahou won three times against rival Kamehameha. The Buffanblu were ranked No. 1 for most of the way, but Kamehameha's ascent late in the year was spectacular. The Warriors, with 22 kills by Christenson in the state final, shocked the crowd in Keaau by sweeping top-seeded Punahou 25-23, 25-20, 25-23.
"That's the best I've ever seen him play in four years, and that's to his credit," Tune said. "Great players step up in great moments."
The Warriors relied heavily on Christenson's multiple skills. He hit from either side, occasionally set, blocked everywhere and was even a primary passer in clutch situations at the state tourney.
"The last part of the season, he was playing at the highest level, which gave them a lot more flexibility going to other guys in their offense," Tune noted. "When we're slowing him down, it's a lot different ball game, but when he's that effective and we're not able to slow him down, then their setter (Elijah Aiona) has a lot of confidence to go other places."
Hawaii Baptist coach Teoni Obrey saw enough of Christenson when his Division II program faced Kamehameha once in the regular season.
"His all-around game, his court presence, his leadership. He's one of those special players who makes everyone else confident," Obrey said. "He's very similar, in terms of understanding the game, to Kawika Shoji as a senior at 'Iolani. He's definitely the best setter, or all-around player, since we've been coaching on the varsity level."
Christenson's agility and versatility made strategy fun for Downing and assistant coach Randy Nako.
"We put our best player in the middle of the court five times. So you needed to shift your front row around that so you don't get the overlap," Downing said. "We put him in the top gun position and he handled it. He's a great athlete, a great person. His feet aren't on the ground, they're in the ground. That's how centered and grounded he is. He's such a great leader. He showed the rest of his kids about winning. It was his show."
Downing, who is a 1976 graduate of Kamehameha, arrived back on campus with Nako after four years as a girls assistant at Punahou. He and his staff arrived in the spring and had a group of seniors to work with. Their maturity, along with Christenson's positive attitude, made a big difference.
"He's arguably one of the best athletes to come out of Kamehameha, and he didn't play football. That's how good he is. He showed it through his leadership. Looking back at the video now, he ran the show. It was his show. I was just a part of it on the side," Downing said. "Three out of five times, Punahou beat us. We just happened to win at the right time."
Punahou middle Ben Lam was second in the voting, which was no surprise. Both Lam and Christenson are heading to USC next season.
"Ben's a warrior, never gives up, one of the hardest working players I've come across," Tune said. "Ben has a lot of physical ability, but he's one of those guys who has made himself into the player he is. That sounds a little convoluted, but he's outworked everybody.
"You haven't heard the last of Micah, certainly, but you haven't heard the last of Ben, either."
Other top vote-getters for coaching honors were Obrey, Caleb Palmer of Seabury Hall, Doug Hee of Moanalua, Jason Wilson of Kohala, Tune, Kaniela Kalama of Kahuku and Mike Among of 'Iolani.
Richard Harpole, who was voted fifth in the Fab 15, was also voted the most improved player of the year.