Going by past results, Saturday night’s Division I boys volleyball state tournament at Blaisdell Arena has a heavyweight in one corner and a light heavyweight in the other.
The old-timey boxing announcer could announce Punahou as “the reigning five-time champeen.” The opponent, Kamehameha-Hawaii, is the annual challenger, the team that gets super close, but can’t bring home the hardware.
Punahou coach Rick Tune is relishing the matchup against the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Warriors.
“They have a fantastic coach, Guy Enriques,” Tune said. “I have tons of respect for him and the way he runs his program. They don’t have a lot of size, but they play with a lot of heart and they scrap. And just keep scrapping.”
Punahou (18-0), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion, is super deep, with little difference between its first and second squads. But playing together and with the needed mind-set is a concern. Tune said his team knew they didn’t have the right kind of gusto in Friday’s three-set semifinal win over Waiakea.
“You have to find a way to cohesively strive for synergy,” Tune said. “Synergy is when you are playing better than the sum of your parts – two plus two equals six. I didn’t feel like we were doing that and the guys didn’t either. Part of that was the different combinations we threw on the court. Our goal was to get everyone some time tonight. Maybe part of it is that. But we do it in practice every day, mixing up the combinations on the court and they get to the point where they have synergy pretty quickly.”
In the championship game,Kamehameha-Hawaii (16-0) will have some solid backers in BIIF rival Waiakea, who ran into the brick wall otherwise known as the Buffanblu on Friday.
“Kamehameha-Hawaii is in top shape,” first-year Waiakea coach Napua Canda said.”We’ve been battling with them all season. They’re ready. They’re peaking. They have the twins (Guy Enriques’ sons Addison Enriques and Avery Enriques) and they have chemistry on the court and have been playing ball together for a long time now. They’re all-around good volleyball players and are one team playing together and are a bunch of great kids. I will definitely be there cheering them on.”
Canda is a 2005 Waiakea graduate who played under coach Enriques in club volleyball and went on to play for Orange Coast College.
Aside from the Enriques boys, Kamehameha-Hawaii gets a lot of mileage from 6-foot-4 middle Nalu Kahapea and setter Jai Makaukane.
Among Punahou’s many big assets are hitters Ryan Wilcox and Ethan Siegfried, setters DJ McInerny and Jameson McKibbin, 6-4 middle Robert Allen, 6-3 middle Ryan Hong, 6-4 opposite Kanai Akana and 6-8 opposite Alakai Todd.
The Buffanblu have won 34 D-I state championships in the 48 years of the tournament, including the last five and seven of the last eight under Tune.
Kamehameha-Hawaii has made it at least as far as the semifinals in seven of the last 10 years, with losses to Punahou in the final in 2012, 2014 and 2015.