Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away…
> Goliath in blue
Twenty state championships into the program’s history, Kamehameha is/was/always will be a girls volleyball dynasty, winning two of the past five state championships, and before that, six state crowns in a row, all under coach Chris Blake.
It can be argued that the Warriors are still a dynastic presence, a great balance of finesse and power. Besides, it is improbable that any program will gather the kind of talent and depth the Warriors had during those peak years from 1997-99 and 2005-10: Lily Kahumoku, Ulia Crabbe, Kanani Danielson, Kealani Kimball, Kuulei Kamanao, Casey Castillo, Kea Kea, Devan Bukoski, Bekah Torres, Tehane Kahalehau, Whitney Viveiros, Taylor Akana, Misty Ma‘a and more. A generation of teams during that stretch that were so strong, even now, that reserve players went on to play in college.
It’s not always about winning a state title every single season to assert presence as a dynasty. Every other year will do fine, perhaps. Saturday afternoon’s four-set loss at Punahou doesn’t redefine the Warriors’ legacy, not at all. why not? Well…
> Goliath in Buffanblu
Punahou lost FOUR matches in the first round of the ILH season. Yes, the Buffanblu, that “other” dynasty in Hawaii girls volleyball with state titles in three of the past five seasons (nine state championships in all), was 6-4, good for third place (behind Kamehameha and ‘Iolani) in a rollicking ILH. That runner-up slot could prove to be crucial if Punahou doesn’t win Round 2, since the ILH honors the runners-up in their playoff and state-tournament berth chase. Not to mention the history of ILH runner-up teams actually winning the state title. More on that later. Back to Punahou: the win over Kamehameha yesterday was more than just tasty for Buffanblu fans at Hemmeter Fieldhouse. It knocked Kamehameha from an unbeaten run in Round 2, and it prevented Punahou — which lost at ‘Iolani earlier in the week — from sliding behind. Desperation is quite the motivator for any title-hungry program. None more so than the Puns. Now KS, PUN and IOL are 3-1.
> Insomniac League of Honolulu
No time for sleep in the ILH, where it is as true as Blake says: There is no easy match from top to bottom. Maryknoll has transformed into a Top 10-worthy program whether voters acknowledge this or not. Kamehameha needed five sets to get past the Spartans recently. Even a two-set sweep of SHA in Round 1 was very competitive (25-21, 25-19). Among the top four in the league, almost everybody has beaten everybody else, and those who have not certainly could.
Kamehameha (Round 1: 9-1; R2: 3-1)
WIns: ‘Iolani, Punahou (2x), Maryknoll (2x), MPI (2x), SHA (2x)
WIns: MPI, Maryknoll, SHA
‘Iolani (R1: 8-2; R2: 3-1)
WIns: Kamehameha, Punahou, Maryknoll (2x), MPI (2x), SHA (2x)
Losses: Kamehameha, Punahou
WIns: Punahou, MPI, SHA
Punahou (R1: 6-4; R2: 3-1)
WIns: ‘Iolani, Maryknoll, MPI (2x), SHA (2x)
Losses: Kamehameha (2x), ‘Iolani, Maryknoll
WIns: SHA, Maryknoll, Kamehameha
Maryknoll (R1: 4-6; R2: 2-2)
WIns: Punahou, MPI, SHA (2x)
Losses: Kamehameha (2x), ‘Iolani (2x), Punahou, MPI
WIns: ‘Iolani, MPI
Losses: Kamehameha, Punahou
Mid-Pacific (R1: 3-7; R2: 1-3)
WIns: Maryknoll, SHA (2x)
Losses: Kamehameha (2x), Punahou (2x), ‘Iolani (2x), Maryknoll
Losses: Kamehameha, ‘Iolani, Maryknoll
Sacred Hearts (R1: 0-10; R2: 0-4)
Losses: Kamehameha (2x), Punahou (2x), ‘Iolani (2x), Maryknoll (2x)
Losses: Punahou, MPI, Kamehameha, ‘Iolani
This doesn’t even account for the strength of ILH Division II, where perennial power Hawaii Baptist has been challenged to its core by Le Jardin and Damien, and University is another strong competitor for a state-tourney berth.
> About that insomnia
More than probably any other league, the demands of being a student-athlete in the ILH can take a drastic toll. Lose a few hours sleep a couple nights during the week, and that can accumulate into a close loss in this league. it might explain why just about every team is vulnerable at any time. Sleep is good. Sleep is important.
At this point of the season, bodies are fatigued, schematics are reaching maximum potential. All the extra reps and preparation are good, but rest counts, too, and every coach is tinkering with that balance.
> What next?
REVISED 10/18. Here’s what the ILH tiebreakers and potential scenarios are:
Two state-tournament berths. Kamehameha is in. ‘Iolani and Punahou are in contention for the final berth.
1. If Kamehameha (3-1, 12-2 overall) and Punahou (3-1, 9-5 overall) each win its final match, they will play off for the second-round title.
> A Kamehameha win in the second-round playoff would mean they are ILH champion. (Punahou and ‘Iolani would play off for the final state berth on Thursday at ‘Iolani.)
> A Punahou win in the second-round playoff would mean Punahou clinches the second round. Then Punahou and Kamehameha would play off for the ILH title on Thursday at Kamehameha. (‘Iolani would be eliminated.)
2. If ‘Iolani (3-1, 12-3 overall) and Punahou each win its final match, they will play off for second-round title.
> An ‘Iolani win, ‘Iolani would clinch a state berth. (‘Iolani and Kamehameha would play off for the ILH title Thursday at ‘Iolani by virtue of its 2-1 head-to-head record vs. Kamehameha). Punahou would be eliminated.
> A Punahou win, see scenario #1.
Three state-tournament berths. HBA and LJA are in. Damien and La Pietra are in contention for the final berth.
1. HBA (2-0, 11-1 overall) hosts LJA (2-0, 10-2 overall) on Tuesday.
> An HBA win, HBA would be ILH champion. LJA would be second place.
> An LJA win, LJA would be second-round champion. (LJA and HBA would play off for the ILH D-II title Thursday (at HBA). The winner would be champion, loser would be ILH second place.
2. Damien and La Pietra will play for Round 2 third place on Tuesday at Damien.
> A Damien win, Damien clinches third place overall and earns the final state berth. La Pietra would be eliminated.
> A La Pietra win would mean would mean La Pietra and Damien play off on Thursday for third place overall (at DMS). If La Pietra wins, Damien and La Pietra play off on Friday for state berth at Damien (with La Pietra playing without their Honolulu Waldorf student). La Pietra and Damien could possibly play each other three times this week.
(Courtesy of ILH volleyball coordinator Deren Oshiro)
Someone will miss the Division I state tournament. Such is the way in this tank of piranhas.
> About them superpowers…
Times are changing, of course. The new HHSAA format in football has taken most of the pressure and burden off ILH teams. instead of only one of its four D-I football teams qualifying for state-tourney play, three of them will.
“The leagues should merge for volleyball, too,” Punahou coach Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson said after Saturday’s match.
The dreamy possibilities of seeing a powerhouse like Kahuku, currently ranked No. 1 in the state, playing Kamehameha, Punahou, ‘Iolani two or three times before the state tourney… WOW. Yes, the gym at Kahuku would be packed, fans stomping those bleachers. Add Moanalua, Mililani and that’s one incredible volleyball league. But that’s also a bit greedy for volleyball fans.
Also, that would take some of the drama out of the ILH season. And yet, a merged league would give volleyball fans a chance to see most, if not all, of the league’s Top 10 private-school teams play for a state championship. And unlike football, where the OIA has more balance and elite programs, volleyball in a combined schedule would be largely dominated by private-school programs. That’s the reality.
As it is, Tuesday’s ‘Iolani-at-Kamehameha match is for all the marbles from ‘Iolani’s perspective. Punahou’s perspective. Epic — perhaps as it should be.