The Punahou girls volleyball team won’t be sneaking up on Kamehameha this time around.
The defending state champion Buffanblu beat the Warriors in last year’s state championship despite losing to them throughout the season. Now it is their turn to wear the bulls-eye.
The first look at the Punahou machine will come on Thursday at Iolani’s annual Ann Kang tournament, where they open with ‘Iolani II at 8 a.m.
Punahou beat Mira Costa for the tournament championship last year, its third Kang title in a row, and shares a pool with national powers Mater Dei, Santa Margarita and Clovis. Making that pool even tougher is Moanalua. No school has ever won the Ann Kang title four years in a row.
The tournament will feature four of the top five teams in the Star-Advertiser’s preseason poll, with Punahou in the top spot followed by No. 2 Kamehameha, which is not in the tournament, Moanalua, No. 4 Konawaena and No. 5 ‘Iolani.
Even without Kamehameha, the tournament is often a state tournament preview. The eventual state champion has started its season with a Kang trophy six times. Mainland schools have won it 14 times to Hawaii’s 11 with Chung Shan Industrial & Commercial Vocational School taking it home to Taiwan in 2010.
Eventual Hawaii State champions that also took the Ann Kang:
Here are the pools:
A: Punahou, Mater Dei, Santa Margarita, Moanalua, Clovis, Crossroads, Mid-Pacific, Iolani II
B: Redondo Union, Iolani, Huntington Beach, Dimond, Boswell, Konawaena, Upland Christian, Kailua
Punahou lost the heart of its team to graduation in McKenna Granato and Kiani Tuileta but returns a lot of talent in Vonica Malufau, Brandee Markwith, Kiana Peroff, Lillie Klemmer and Hana Lishman.
The only other school that looks like it can match the Buffanblu in returning talent is state division II champion Konawawena which returns Chanelle Molina, Celena Molina and McKenna Ventura.
Play begins at 8 a.m. each morning and goes through until the championship at 4 p.m. Saturday.
King Kekaulike on Oahu
The Kang is not the only place to check out preseason volleyball, as McKinley is having its annual Tigers Girls Volleyball Classic the same days.
No. 10 King Kekaulike is the only ranked team in the field, but they can figure to get some pressure from the likes of Campbell, Farrington and Punahou II in their pool. Roosevelt’s White team is also in the bracket.
The other pools:
A: Damien, Kalani White, Leilehua, Roosevelt and Maryknoll.
C: Sacred Hearts, Kalani, McKinley, Farrington White, Hawaii Baptist ACD.
D: Kauai, Christian Academy, Aiea, St. Francis, Kaimuki.
The championship match of the tournament is scheduled for Saturday at 1:15 p.m.