VB: In the middle of it all

Punahou's Tai Manu-Olevao beat Farrington's Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo for a kill in the Buffanblu's sweep of the Governors on Thursday night. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.
Punahou's Tai Manu-Olevao beat Farrington's Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo for a kill in the Buffanblu's sweep of the Governors on Thursday night. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

In Punahou’s first action in states this year, the middles carried the early load as the Buffanblu rolled easily over Farrington 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 yesterday at McKinley High School.

Russo and Thompson combined for 17 of the team’s 31 kills in the first two games. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 senior, finished with a match-high 12 kills on 17 swings with only two hitting errors (.588). Russo, a 6-0 junior, contributed six kills on seven swings with no hitting errors (.857).

The win puts Punahou (20-0) in the Division I semifinals where it will face a Moanalua squad that beat fourth-seeded Kamehameha-Maui yesterday. Today’s Punahou-Moanalua match is at McKinley and is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.


Though the Buffanblu had to shake off some rust from having not competed since wrapping up the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title on Oct. 17, they absolutely stymied an overmatched Farrington team that had no answer for Russo and Thompson in the middle.

“They’re a big part of it,” said Punahou coach Jim Iams. “It sets up a lot of things. … It’s a big part of what we have to do to be successful.”

Moanalua 3, Kamehameha-Maui 0

One year after losing in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, sixth-ranked Na Menehune have gone one step farther. Moanalua, which finished second in the Oahu Interscholastic Association to Kahuku, knocked off the Warriors 25-21, 25-19, 25-23 yesterday at McKinley High School.

Moanalua (17-3) advanced to the semifinals, where it will play top-seeded Punahou today. KS-Maui, seeded fourth in Division I, suffered its first loss of the season.

Moanalua, which returned just one starter off last year’s fifth-place team, wasn’t quite sure how good it could be, but Na Menehune are starting to believe now that they are in the semifinals.

“I knew had the potential, it was just whether or not we believed in ourselves,” Matautia said. “I think we’re starting to show if we keep working together, we’ll do everything that we want to do.”

Kahuku 3, Mililani 0

The Red Raiders took another big step toward a crown with a 25-16, 25-8, 25-18 sweep of Mililani last night in the quarterfinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball State Championships.

Kahuku is after its second state championship. Its only state title came in 2002 under coach Mona Ah-Hoy.

A small, but boisterous crowd at James Alegre Gym saw Kahuku (16-1) overcome a spotty start against the tricky Trojans. Amanda Tonga, a 6-foot-1 middle, powered the offense with 13 kills and just one hitting error (.632), while Elizabeth Blake led the back row with 10 digs. Blake added 21 assists and seven kills for the Oahu Interscholastic Association champions.

A balanced attack included Maria Tonga (nine kills, seven digs), Teuila Nautu (20 assists, six digs), Natallia Cravens (seven kills, .462), Liza Domingo (seven digs) and Ho‘onani Apo (five digs). Their play allowed Fotu Vendiola to go deep into her bench late in the second set.

“We got everybody in, and that always feels good at this point in the season,” she said.

Kamehameha 3, Waiakea 0
If defense wins championships, Kamehameha is on the right path. Kamehameha closed in on Waiakea hitters Chelsey Buyuan and Kamie Imai early to set the tone for a 25-14, 25-16, 26-24 sweep of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s champions.

“Waiakea’s a very dynamic team, dynamic outside,” Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. “It shows the things we can do, to step up and play better than our previous game.”

Despite hitting .000 in the first game, Waiakea trailed 11-10 after a kill by Alyssalyn Buyuan. Kamehameha closed out the set with a 14-4 run.
Kamehameha jumped to an 11-1 lead in the second set and wasn’t threatened, but Waiakea rebounded in the third game and had a 16-11 lead after a block by Imai on Wasko. Kamehameha then outscored Waiakea 9-1 to regain control.

Buyuan was held without a kill in the opening set, but finished with a team-high 11 kills (.143) and 12 digs. Imai, a multi-sport standout, finished with five kills. Erika Cushnie had eight kills and setter Ashia Joseph dealt 25 assists. Kassandra Kagawa had 11 digs for Waiakea (16-1), which hit .126 against Kamehameha’s big block.


“Our blocking was working good and we kept everything in system. Coach told us to work on our block plays. We were keying on their outsides,” senior Taylor Akana said. “As we began to stop them, that made our defense easier.”

“We watched them last night and their blockers were disciplined,” Waiakea coach Lee Ann Maikui said of Kamehameha. “We knew they had big blocks.”

Kamehameha’s serve had plenty to do with Waiakea’s early struggles.
“We couldn’t execute our passes. Kamehameha always serves us tough, and they mix up their hitting,” Maikui said.

The longtime coach added some thoughts about officiating.

“The girls play really hard and some calls were unnecessary. I wish they’d let the girls play,” Maikui said.

Kamehameha, ranked second in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, is looking forward to the semifinals. The Warriors and Red Raiders have met once, a preseason scrimmage at Kamehameha’s campus.

“They’ve got great setters and a great system. Hopefully, we step up and play our best match. The Tongas, Maria and Amanda, are good and they’re solid all around,” Blake said.

Kamehameha is the four-time defending state champion.

Despite hitting .000 in the first game, Waiakea trailed 11-10 after a kill by Alyssalyn Buyuan. Kamehameha closed out the set with a 14-4 run.

Kamehameha jumped to an 11-1 lead in the second set and wasn’t threatened, but Waiakea rebounded in the third game and had a 16-11 lead after a block by Imai on Wasko. Kamehameha then outscored Waiakea 9-1 to regain control.

Buyuan was held without a kill in the opening set, but finished with a team-high 11 kills (.143) and 12 digs. Imai, a multi-sport standout, finished with five kills. Erika Cushnie had eight kills and setter Ashia Joseph dealt 25 assists. Kassandra Kagawa had 11 digs for Waiakea (16-1), which hit .126 against Kamehameha’s big block.

“Our blocking was working good and we kept everything in system. Coach told us to work on our block plays. We were keying on their outsides,” senior Taylor Akana said. “As we began to stop them, that made our defense easier.”

“We watched them last night and their blockers were disciplined,” Waiakea coach Lee Ann Maikui said of Kamehameha. “We knew they had big blocks.”

Kamehameha’s serve had plenty to do with Waiakea’s early struggles.

“We couldn’t execute our passes. Kamehameha always serves us tough, and they mix up their hitting,” Maikui said.

The longtime coach added some thoughts about officiating.

“The girls play really hard and some calls were unnecessary. I wish they’d let the girls play,” Maikui said.


Kamehameha, ranked second in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, is looking forward to the semifinals. The Warriors and Red Raiders have met once, a preseason scrimmage at Kamehameha’s campus.

“They’ve got great setters and a great system. Hopefully, we step up and play our best match. The Tongas, Maria and Amanda, are good and they’re solid all around,” Blake said.

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