Punahou’s 2018 team checked all of the boxes

Punahou celebrated its seventh consecutive state boys volleyball crown and 36th overall on Saturday night at Blaisdell Arena. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Punahou boys volleyball coach Rick Tune stopped short of ranking his seven different teams that have won state titles in the Buffanblu’s latest dominance of the sport.

It was clear in talking to the former University of Hawaii middle blocker, however, that this group, led by a core of four senior starters, was not your ordinary graduating class.

“This group checked all the boxes. This group didn’t have any holes,” Tune said after Punahou swept Moanalua 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 in the finals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships at Blaisdell Arena on Saturday night. “This comes along once or twice in a career. I don’t want people to get used to this.”

The Buffanblu capped off a 13-0 record in ILH regular-season play and the state tournament, losing just two sets, but the season was about much more than those games.

Punahou won the prestigious Best of the West tournament last year, with mostly underclassmen. This year, instead of defending their title, the Buffanblu went to Japan and beat the top three high school volleyball teams in the country.

They also won their own Clash of the Titans tournament and finished the year dropping just one set in the state tournament.

It was only the second time during their run of seven straight state championships that the Buffanblu swept the final.

“I thought we played a really clean game of volleyball,” said senior setter Jameson McKibbin, who finished with 40 assists, six digs, two block assists and a kill. “I set a pretty decent offense but thank God our hitters make me look a lot better than I set.”

Senior Ryan Wilcox hit .361 and put down a match-high 17 kills for Punahou (13-0), which have now won 36 of the 50 state titles in boys volleyball since the first tournament was held in 1969.

Wilcox, the reigning All-State player of the year, was in complete control from the outset. His six kills in the opening set allowed Punahou to take a 1-0 lead without trailing in the match.

Moanalua hung tight in the second set and led 11-10 when Wilcox hammered a kill to start an 8-0 run.

Wilcox served four aces during the run, including three straight to force a Moanalua timeout.

Punahou finished with eight aces total in the match and hit .279 as a team.

“Winning the state championship is the goal for us and to be able to achieve that this year and the past years is a great feeling,” Wilcox said. “Technically we were on it but emotionally, that was probably the best emotional game we had. It was really fun and when we’re having fun I would say that’s when we have our most successful game.”

Although the Buffanblu will again be loaded next season, they do lose an incredible amount of talent. Saturday night was the last time a lot of these players, some who have played together for a decade in club volleyball, would suit up on the same side of the net.

“It’s bittersweet — super happy obviously. This is how we wanted to finish,” Wilcox said. “But I’m going to be sad leaving all of these guys. There’s not going to be a group like this I’m ever going to play with again.”

Division I

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1April 30Mililani vs. MauiMil 25-17, 25-20, 19-25, 25-17Maui
2April 30Waipahu vs. KaiserWaip 25-23, 26-24, 21-25, 18-25, 16-14Kaiser
3April 30KS-Hawaii vs. WaianaeKSH 25-27, 25-22, 25-23, 23-25, 18-16KS-Hawaii
4April 30'Iolani vs. KapoleiIol 25-17, 25-9, 25-21'Iolani
5May 3(4) KS-Maui vs. 'IolaniIol 25-21, 25-17, 25-16McKinley
6May 3(2) Moanalua vs. KS-HawaiiMoan 25-15, 25-21, 25-9McKinley
7May 3(4) Kealakehe vs. WaipahuKeal 25-17, 20-25, 25-16, 25-14Moanalua
8May 3(1) Punahou vs. MililaniPun 25-12, 25-21, 25-10Moanalua
9*May 4KS-Maui vs. KS-HawaiiKSM 25-23, 26-24McKinley
10*May 4Waipahu vs. MililaniMil 23-25, 27-25, 15-10McKinley
11May 4'Iolani vs. MoanaluaMoan 25-15, 33-35, 29-27, 26-24Moanalua
12May 4Kealakehe vs. PunahouPun 25-13, 25-15, 22-25, 25-14Moanalua
13*May 5KS-Maui vs. MililaniMaui 23-25, 26-24, 15-11Blaisdell Arena
14*May 5'Iolani vs. KealakeheIol 25-18, 25-22Blaisdell Arnea
15May 5Moanalua vs. PunahouPun 25-19, 25-16, 25-21Blaisdell Arena
* — consolation

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