No. 1 Punahou is vulnerable? One coach says yes

Longtime coach Rick Tune has guided Punahou to 10 state titles. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

After 37 state championships in boys volleyball, there still is no compromise for Punahou.

A 25-17, 25-15, 25-17 sweep over OIA runner-up Mililani was convincing enough. Can anyone stop the top-seeded Buffanblu? Mililani’s serve was tough on the ILH champions, enough for a string of three aces early in the match and some occasional success against a normally teflon-tough Punahou serve-receive crew.

Punahou coach Rick Tune was seated for nearly the entire match, gauging the waters. His grade of the Buffanblu on Friday night: 87 percent. When they were clean with passing, there wasn’t a lot Mililani could do. Keau Thompson, Riley Haine and Aidan Tune remain the toughest trio of offensive weapons on one team statewide. Setter Keegan Au Yuen’s precision and vision are unsurpassed.

And yet, at least one close observer believes the unbeaten Buffanblu are vulnerable.

“Punahou has got a lot of talent. They’re susceptible like any other team for opportunities, if you’re playing your game,” Mililani coach Gabriel Maunupau said. “With the right offensive plan and if you can execute, you’ve got a shot against them. Punahou is very tough, but there’s an opportunity for sure.”

As for Mililani, the silver lining is crucial. There has been improvement since the loss to Moanalua in the OIA final.

“It’s important to understand that we’re making huge strides. We have an opportunity to fight for third. Don’t put your head down. You’re going to be sad, be sad for an hour and get over it. We’ve got to move on and get ready for tomorrow,” said Maunupau, whose team will play Kamehameha on Saturday.

Punahou isn’t quite 100-percent healthy yet. Aidan Tune has recovered from an illness, but Haine is still dealing with shin splints.

“I took two Advils today,” he said. “It always helps to relieve the pain. We’re super excited to play in states. We love playing in Blaisdell with all those fans.”

“I feel like we’re really focused and determined to win this,” Tune said.

Moanalua senior outside hitter Keanu Kawaa has been selective and powerful with 41 kills in two wins at the state championships. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

Moanalua and Kamehameha engaged in a 134-minute thriller in the semifinal nightcap at Moanalua’s gym. After a modest 21 hitting attempts in Moanalua’s quarterfinal sweep of Castle, Keanu Kawaa was in terminator mode against Kamehameha with 30 kills in 85 swings, adding eight digs and a block. With more patience in their attack, Na Menehune rode out long rallies against the Warriors and seemed to play their best while in elimination mode — playing from behind.

“We’ve just got to fight. When we see ourselves down in the score, we start to fight harder,” Kawaa said. “Losing is something we hate. Every time that happens, we play amazing.”

The Division II bracket has been illuminating. Top seed Saint Louis fell, setting up a Seabury Hall-Pearl City clash in tonight’s final.

The Chargers came in as the fourth seed after winning the OIA D-II title. They edged fifth-seeded Konawaena 25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 24-26, 15-10 behind 24 kills by Fati Seei-Tofi, 41 assists by Christian Ronquillo and 32 digs by Tyrus Williams.

Seei-Tofi had 24 kills in just 35 attempts as Pearl City stunned top-seeded Saint Louis 25-21, 25-15, 22-25, 28-26 in the semifinal round on Friday. Ronquillo had 60 assists, diversifying the attack through Keahi Kaneakua (16 kills) and Tiandrew Taimanao (10 kills).

The third-seeded Spartans swept ILH runner-up Le Jardin, then rallied past OIA runner-up Nanakuli 22-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-12, 15-12 on Friday. Thomas Russell led the MIL champions with 211 kills and Luca Connor dished 50 assists.

The second seed, Island School of the KIF, was eliminated by Nanakuli in the quarterfinal round.


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