Punahou beats Kamehameha in volleyball for state berth
The Punahou boys volleyball team received a “wake-up call” the last time it played Kamehameha. This time around, the Buffanblu answered the call.
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The Punahou boys volleyball team received a “wake-up call” the last time it played Kamehameha.
This time around, the Buffanblu answered the call.
Jack Duechar had 14 kills and Kawai Hong added 13 as Punahou defeated host Kamehameha 25-22, 17-25, 25-17, 25-17 in a playoff for the ILH regular-season championship Saturday.
The Buffanblu (10-1) clinched a berth in the HHSAA Division I State Championships, which start April 29. Punahou has won the last seven state titles.
“Huge. I cannot tell you how ginormous that is,” Punahou coach Rick Tune said. “We have three really good teams in our league. Maybe more.”
Next up for the Buffanblu and Warriors is the ILH tournament, which started Saturday. The event will help determine the league’s other state tournament team. Both teams will open play Monday.
On Wednesday, Kamehameha beat host Punahou in four sets to snap the Buffanblu’s 34-match regular-season winning streak and force the playoff.
“It feels really great after Kamehameha played a really great match Wednesday,” said Hong, junior. “It was kind of a wake-up call because we had a streak in the past and it felt really good to win and kind of start our own streak.”
In Saturday’s match, Robbie Allen added 11 kills for Punahou, while Connor McInerny had 25 assists and Keegan Au Yuen had 21.
“It’s best for the team,” said McInerny, a senior, on the Buffanblu’s two-setter system. “I just try to encourage my partner Keegan all the time and we’re finding a rhythm. He’s the real deal and the future of this program.”
There were 10 ties and five lead changes over the first half of the first set. Hong and Jakob Kimura had kills and the Warriors committed service and hitting errors during a 4-0 scoring run that gave the Buffanblu a 20-16 advantage.
In the second set, Kamehameha scored its first five points on service errors. The Warriors (9-2) then went on a 7-0 run with Laiakea Hirahara serving to take a 21-14 lead. The Buffanblu had four hitting errors during the surge.
“Sometimes guys go back and they feel like they need to score the point or they need to amp it up,” Tune said of the service errors. “In reality we just have to trust our teammates to play ball.”
Punahou led all the way in the third with its largest lead at 19-11. The Buffanblu had 17 kills and only two hitting errors in the set.
The fourth set was tied at 9-9 before Punahou pulled away.
“These guys trust each other and we’re building and growing that trust in one another and that allows guys to play steady,” Tune said. “When you have that trust you know that you can overcome.”
Punahou finished with 12 blocks, while Kamehameha had three.
“Over the course of the match, we just started tightening it and tightening it and tightening it,” Tune said.
The only consistent scoring threat for the Warriors was Christmas Togiai, who finished with 19 kills.
“He played the way he always plays,” Kamehameha coach Randy Nako said. “He gets, gosh, he probably averages about 50 sets a match and he hits for a high percentage. He’s a go-to guy. He’s strong enough physically, getting that many sets is not a big deal for him.”
Matt Saffery dished out 35 assists for the Warriors.
Both teams were playing their fourth match in four days.
After meeting Wednesday on the final day of the ILH regular season, Punahou and Kamehameha played nationally ranked California teams in the Clash of the Titans on Thursday and Friday.
The Buffanblu swept Corona Del Mar, which is ranked No. 12 nationally by MaxPreps, on Friday.
“We just had a big boost from last night when we played Corona Del Mar,” McInerny said. “The leadership between all the players, all the seniors, was out there today.”