Based on history and math, when Punahou enters a boys volleyball season, it has a seven in 10 chance to win a state championship by season’s end.
Since its inception in 1969, there have been 47 boys volleyball state tournaments and Punahou has won 33 of them.
Coach Rick Tune and his boys captured their latest title on Saturday night with a 25-23, 25-18, 25-27, 25-13 victory over Kamehameha-Hawaii at Blaisdell Arena.
And while Tune and the Buffanblu have a ton of respect for the Warriors from the Big Island, the visitors will remain pretenders until they can get over that final hump.
Coach Guy Enriques has gotten Kamehameha-Hawaii (17-1) to three of the last four state finals, only to stumble against the Buffanblu (18-0).
“We have a long way to go,” Enriques said after the latest loss. He was still very much smiling and proud that his team made it this far again.
“Solid,” Enriques’ voice boomed when asked what his team ran into Saturday night. “Solid. Punahou is very solid.”
Micah Ma‘a, the Punahou hitter extraordinaire, was quick to give props to the Big Islanders, who did not succeed in their invasion, but are likely to keep trying.
“That’s a great team,” said Ma‘a, who was part of Punahou’s team that made it to the state final in football and was on the state-contending basketball team. He has been a part of four volleyball state titles in a row.
“This is sweet,” he said. “Football was tough; we put a lot into that and Mililani was a really good team. I’ve been lucky to be on some really, really great volleyball teams.”
Emmett Enriques, the coach’s son, ended up with 33 kills for the Warriors.
“We were scared going into the match, but after the first set, we settled down and started to compete better,” Emmett Enriques said. “At least we won one set.”
Evan Enriques was the big hitter as a senior for the Warriors a year ago when they made it to the final. He was their go-to guy. This year, Emmett, his brother, was one of many hitters the team went to. However, coach Enriques decided the right thing to do against Punahou’s gigantic blockers was to try to set Emmett as much as possible.
Both teams used two smooth setters. Twin sophomores Addison Enriques had 21 assists and Avery Enriques 18 for the Warriors.
Wil Stanley and Todd Gruebner had 25 assists each for the Buffanblu. Stanley also pounded 16 kills.
Injured senior Hanalē Lee Loy (ankle) got in for one serve for the Warriors. In December, he was one of four high school athletes statewide to win a $1,000 Positive Coaching Alliance scholarship (with a $1,000 anonymous match).
Lee Loy is the epitome of Enriques’ team-first philosophy.
“They (the PCA) are looking for great people, responsible, unselfish, with goals, a work ethic, and on a team sport like volleyball, playing your role with purpose. Hanalē is all of that,” Enriques said to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser earlier this year.
Tune is all about team, too, and he was happy to see the Buffanblu peak at the right time.
“I thought we played some of our best matches late in the season,” he said. “This was the first group I’ve had (he’s led the Buffanblu to the state title in six of the last seven years) that has peaked at the end like this.
“This season, they responded to being outward with their play. Instead of looking inside, only at ‘me,’ they paid attention to everyone else and if someone was struggling, they knew to bring them back in. Sometimes, when they’re playing club ball, they’re silent because they get to know what everybody is doing without talking too much.”
Tune did not to forget to mention the Punahou volleyball supporters.
“We have great program support, from the parents, the alumni and the administration,” he said. “There is a rich history and a tradition and all of that support is why we’re successful.”
Tradition. You could say the Warriors have been building it, too, big-time. They’ve been knocking on the door, and one of these years, it might open up for them.