For the first time in more than a decade, the defending state Division I volleyball champion will not get a chance to defend its title on the court.
Kamehameha beat Punahou in five sets on Friday night, robbing the Buffanblu of the chance. Punahou started the season No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser’s poll and held the spot for a month before losing to Mililani.
It is the first time since Punahou’s 2004 title team that the reigning champions will have to purchase a ticket to get into states. Previously, 1999 Kamehameha, 1993 Punahou, 1981 Kailua, 1977 Kamehameha and 1976 Waipahu suffered the indignity.
Punahou, which upset Kamehameha for the title last year, lost only three seniors off its title team. But those three seniors proved to be impossible to replace. One of them was state player of the year McKenna Granato, who is burying kills for the Rainbow Wahine this year. The others were Fab 15 selection Kiani Tuileta at setter and defensive stalwart Kaylen Higa.
Together they had 41 of Punahou’s 90 digs in last year’s state title match.
Punahou and Kamehameha have been in each of the last seven state championship matches. Kamehameha will try for its third straight ILH title today at 3 p.m. at Iolani.