Altogether it was just a little more than 5 minutes, but you could see it on the faces of the Punahou players – just a little bit of doubt.
The heavily favored Buffanblu tried in vain to fight off Kamehameha-Hawaii in the second set of Saturday night’s state Division I boys volleyball final.
The opposing Warriors sensed something amiss on the other side of the court and they pounced to win the set and tie the match at 1-1.
How would Punahou respond? Fall apart or come out with even more energy? Well, if you guessed the latter, you are correct. The Buffanblu, who finished 19-0, went on some big runs to win the next two sets to wrap up a 35th D-I state championship in the 49th year of the event.
Kanai Akana, a 6-foot-4 junior opposite, said afterward that the team was “a little bit” worried.
“We kind of had to settle down and come together as a team and play how we normally play,” he said.
With 13 kills and 10 digs, Akana was a big part of the victory. There were lots of other contributors, as usual. Junior Ryan Wilcox, who is 6-3, put down 20 kills with 10 digs, and senior Ethan Siegfried (6-3) added 14 kills. Sophomore Robert Allen (6-4) and junior Ryan Hong (6-3) both scored with three block assists, but they were also huge in defending Kamehameha-Hawaii’s middle attack, especially in crunch time in the last two sets.
Then there were the three involved in the setting by committee. Junior Buddy Scott (22 assists), who is 6-5, played the first two sets and was relieved by DJ McInerny, who played half of the third set before he was relieved the rest of the way by Jameson McKibbin (24 assists).
Hiding behind all of these guys (or, as most of them are: giants) was 5-foot-7 sophomore libero Shea Suzumoto, who dug up 21 balls.
Only Siegfried, McInerney and 6-5 middle/opposite Easton Kays will be graduating from the 16-member roster, so look for the Buffanblu to be powerful again next year. When are they not?
In this Punahou dynasty, there is a mini-dynasty going on. Of the 35 titles, coach Rick Tune has been a part of eight of them in his nine seasons at the helm. How much farther can he take these guys?
Wilcox, the most outstanding player of the tournament, got into a bit of a funk in the final despite his 20 kills.
“Sometimes players go through a spell and are not able to come out and they go into what we call the tank,” Tune said. “Ryan did a great job of bouncing back and re-elevating his game.”
Siegfried, who hit .433 in the final, will play for Long Beach State next year. McInerny will play for Grand View (Des Moines, Iowa).
Kamehameha-Hawaii will lose nearly half of its roster and won’t have the services of coach Guy Enriques, who is stepping down to afford himself the opportunity to watch his four sons play in college next year (Avery Enriques at Grand Canyon, Addison Enriques at Concordia, Emmett Enriques at Cal Baptist, and Evan Enriques at Stanford).
Avery and Addison, the twins, just completed their senior seasons with the Big Island champion Warriors, who finished 16-1. They are two of the team’s nine seniors on the 19-man roster.
Kamehameha-Hawaii libero Tristen Cross, setter Kameron Moses, hitter/middle blocker Makana Manoa, opposite Chase Carter, setter Jai Makauakane, middle Jarvis Bento, and hitter/middle blocker Malama McKeague will also be graduating.
Tune, who calls the Warriors a team that “keeps on scrapping” and who calls coach Guy Enriques “one of the greatest coaches” in Hawaii volleyball history, wasn’t surprised that the Big Island foes put the Buffanblu to the test in that second set.
“Winning a championship, you have to go through peaks and valleys, not only in the season, but also on the court,” he said. “You saw that (in the final). It was a game of adjustments and counter moves and ultimately we just had a couple more tricks.”