Ask Rick Tune about excellence in the back row, and the names Shea Suzumoto and Davis Lau pour forth.
They provide the foundation of Punahou’s defense, and that was apparent in a 25-9, 25-15, 25-19 sweep of Castle on Monday night at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.
After winning seven state championships in a row, Punahou entered this year’s New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships unseeded after finishing second in the ILH. Yet, they’ve got plenty of talent across the board. On a relatively young squad, the experience and toughness of Suzumoto and Lau on serve-receive are the constants.
“We play for each other. This year, having a new team, we have little crevices in our play that we try to fill by playing together. As long as we do that, we’ll be fine,” Suzumoto said. “The expectations are on our shoulders as seniors, so we push ourselves.”
That, of course, is easier said than done. When Punahou has been at its best, the Buffanblu have been poised and unified. To advance past the quarterfinal — they meet BIIF champion KS-Hawaii on Thursday at Radford — and then the semifinal, the Buffanblu are taking no opponent for granted.
“One game at a time. One point at a time. Reset, focus on the next play,” said Suzumoto, a senior. “When we come in the huddle, make eye contact. For me, seeing all my passers before the serve, give each other a little look, resetting each play, forgetting about the mistakes and being positive.”
Tune is counting on seniors like Suzumoto. The trust is there, and the underclassmen, like 6-foot-7 junior outside hitter Jack Deuchar, who had 13 kills against Castle, are making strides.
“We want them feeling comfortable on the court, not think about too many things. There’s a fine line between that and executing technically,” Tune said.
It had been a long time since Punahou hadn’t won the ILH: 2003. But winning the state title after finishing second or even third in the ILH has happened more than few times in various sports for multiple schools.
“It’s going to take the whole team buying in not just every match, but every play of every match, to do their role and their role only. We have to execute at a higher level,” Tune noted. “We did a nice job tonight, but we’re going to have to execute even better. We had a lot of mental lapses.
|1||April 29||Hilo vs. Leilehua||Hilo 25-17, 19-25, 25-22, 25-16||Hilo|
|2||April 29||Kalaheo vs. Farrington||Kalh 25-14, 25-18, 25-16||Kalaheo|
|3||April 29||Lahainaluna vs. Mililani||Mil 25-19, 25-23, 25-10||Lahainaluna|
|4||April 29||Punahou vs. Castle||Pun 25-9, 25-15, 25-19||Punahou|
|5||May 2||(3) KS-Hawaii vs. Punahou||Pun 25-6, 25-14, 25-19||Radford|
|6||May 2||(2) Moanalua vs. Mililani||Moan 25-17, 25-9, 22-25, 25-22||Radford|
|7||May 2||(4) KS-Maui vs. Kalaheo||Kalh 25-13, 25-17, 23-25, 25-20||Moanalua|
|8||May 2||(1) 'Iolani vs. Hilo||Iol 25-14, 25-15, 25-23||Moanalua|
|9*||May 3||KS-Maui vs. Hilo||Hilo, 2-1||Radford|
|10*||May 3||KS-Hawaii vs. Mililani||Mil, 2-0||Radford|
|11||May 3||Kalaheo vs. 'Iolani||Iol 25-19, 25-7, 25-18||Moanalua|
|12||May 3||Punahou vs. Moanalua||Pun 22-25, 25-18, 25-19, 21-25, 15-5||Moanalua|
|13*||May 4||Hilo vs. Mililani||Mil 18-25, 25-21, 16-14||Blaisdell Arena|
|14*||May 4||Kalaheo vs. Moanalua||Kalh 25-14, 25-21||Blaisdell Arnea|
|15||May 4||'Iolani vs. Punahou||7 p.m.||Blaisdell Arena|
|* — consolation|