Punahou boys volleyball dynasty opens new chapter on Saturday

Punahou outside hitter Kawai Hong (14), outside hitter Jack Deuchar (10), middle blocker Jordan-Deshawn Hepting (15), libero Xander Pink (1), and opposite Keanu Tavares Thompson (4) celebrated after beating 'Iolani on Mar. 13, 2020. The high school sports spring season was cancelled statewide just days later. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Rick Tune has seen plenty in his decades as a volleyball player and coach.

He won’t be changing his tune, so to speak, no matter what the circumstances around the Punahou Buffanblu. One year after high school volleyball season was cancelled, the eight-time defending state champions will be back on the hardwood to open the Interscholastic League of Honolulu regular season against Mid-Pacific.

The match will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Mills Gymnasium. No spectators will be allowed, per COVID-19 restrictions. It will be streamed live on Mid-Pacific’s Facebook page.

“We’re getting to play volleyball and have a season. It’s taken a lot of hard work by a lot of people to pull it off, by the state, the ILH and our school,” Tune said on Wednesday.

The starting lineup for Punahou: setter Keegan Au Yuen, outside hitters Aidan Tune and Riley Haine, opposite Keau Thompson and middle blocker Nate Loose. The top substitute, Coach Tune said, is Noa Haine, a setter.

The starters plus Haine are juniors with the exceptions of seniors Haine and Loose. Tune, the son of Coach Tune, committed to Pepperdine. Au Yuen has signed with Jamestown, Haine has signed with BYU, and a few more will commit later, Coach Tune said.

“Another kid to watch is Xander Pink, our libero,” he said.

The 2020 spring season was a heartbreaker. Punahou was, as always, talented and prepared, hard-working and focused. But it ended barely a week into league play.

“I was focused on the loss, initially, but it works out better if you have a gratitude mindset on what you have rather than what you lost,” Tune said.

The regular season, or first round, is a double round-robin format for the six Division I teams in the ILH. Then, a single-elimination second round, or playoffs, will follow. No reward for the first-round winner. The second round is winner take all.

The regular season will have best-of-three sets matches.

“We’re hoping for best of five in the second round,” Tune said.

Punahou got back in the gym two weeks ago.

“It feels awesome to be back in the gym, to wear a coaching staff shirt again. To interact,” he said.

With no preseason action, Tune has a different perspective, to a degree.

“I don’t know. The guys we have are playing pretty good. Getting better every day. They know it’s a compressed season,” he said.

The ILH will conclude boys volleyball by the end of the first week in May.

“They’re adjusting accordingly. Every situation in life, you figure out the rules and maximize our experience. That works out better,” Tune said.

The early start for volleyball — compared to other spring sports — also works out for the league’s club players.

“It’s better to prep for club. Nationals are in July,” he noted.

Punahou has won 10 of the last 11 state titles under Tune. Since the first state tournament in 1969, Punahou has captured the state crown 37 times.


  1. Janeen Miller March 20, 2021 4:14 am

    Aloha Hawaii Prep. Nate’s last name is Loose. His dad, Bill Loose, played on Punahou’s state championship volleyball team in the 80s, and went in to play on the US National team. Mahalo for the nice article and info!

  2. Jeanette Yingling March 20, 2021 5:26 am

    Thank You! Coach Tune. ( this is Nate’s California Grandma Jeanette.) I’m so happy to watch the game today.

  3. Paul Honda March 20, 2021 10:02 am

    My apologies. It is fixed. Mahalo!

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