Extra: More on Punahou, St. Francis

(Today’s print edition carried a follow-up story on Punahou’s girls volleyball championship. Here’s more, the stuff that didn’t make it to print due to space limitations.)

Is this the end of a dynasty at Kamehameha?

“I don’t think so,” Punahou coach Peter Balding said. “I think our society looks at a dynasty in terms of wins and losses. Was Buffalo not a dynasty? They went to four straight Super Bowls and we don’t consider them a dynasty because they lost all four. I don’t think that’s right. Kamehameha reloads every year, they’re always the team to beat, and they’ll be the team to beat next year.”

Kamehameha will surely be loaded again, but Punahou will also return middles Claire Feeley (6-foot-1), Marissa Behrens (6-0) and all-tournament selection Brittney Markwith (6-1). Reserve Remo Gaogao, an outside hitter with a rocket launcher of an arm, will be a junior.

At St. Francis, it took a fall from the top to start a path to the Division II state championship following a sweep of Leilehua on Saturday. The Saints were 8-0 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, including a win over Sacred Hearts, when the wheels got wobbly. A decisive loss to Hawaii Baptist in early October was followed by a loss to Sacred Hearts nine days later.

What seemed like a possible league title turned into a third-place finish and a long road at the state tournament.

“After we lost, it kind of humbled us,” Kololia Atoia-Williams said.

Rising from contender to champion was a matter of maturity.

“Throughout the season our inexperience showed, but it finally started clicking when we came to the tournament. THey’ve been disciplined, they’ve listened.

Winning their first state volleyball crown since 2005 may just be the start. Though tournament most outstanding player Harlee Meyers and Jedidah Hanakahi will graduate, a majority of the Saints who played vital roles will be back next season. Among them are outside hitters Kalei Mau and Atoia-Williams, both juniors, both picked to the all-tourney team.

Then again, the Saints are good enough to compete with D-I programs. Between now and next season, a move up wouldn’t be too surprising. Mau, a 6-foot-1 leaper, is possibly the best college prospect in the D-II ranks, is already looking forward to next year.

“I think we should (be in Division I). We’re going to come back twice as hard,” she said. “We’re basically trapped in a cage. They need to be let out and let us free.”

St. Francis athletic director Sol Batoon has seen the tiny school grow in recent years, but he’s not in a rush to step up to D-I yet.

“We’re at 500 (students) now in kindergarten to 12th grade, so we’re not even at the size of HBA. At high school, we’re at 380 or 390. We’re growing,” he said.

Construction of St. Francis’ gym will begin on Feb. 1, he added, and will be done by November of 2012.


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