HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Buffanblu boys are unquestioned No. 1
The only questions about the final Star-Bulletin Boys Volleyball Top 10 poll revolved around everyone not named Punahou.
After all, a 21-0 championship season left zero doubt about Punahou's home atop the mountain of prep volleyball. The Buffanblu not only went unbeaten, but swept all three foes at the New City Nissan/HHSAA State Championships last week.
That gave Punahou its 27th state crown. The tournament has existed for 34 years. Setter Riley McKibbin was the glue for Punahou's championship, the third in a row under coach Peter Balding.
"They're all great. This one's a great way to finish off my senior year. We played awesome," said McKibbin, who will attend USC next season. "(Kamehameha-Hawaii) played a great match, but this was one of our more complete games."
Erik Shoji moved from libero to just about any position asked of him. The versatile, hard-serving junior was a perfect complement to middle blocker Max Halvorson, outside hitter and tourney MVP Spencer McLachlin and McKibbin.
"This year was more of a team effort. Spencer was hitting like crazy, but everyone helped," Shoji said. "I'm the utility guy. Coach puts me anywhere and relies on me."
The Warriors were no slouch, especially after emerging out of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation with a league title. In recent years, Waiakea and KS-Hawaii have been among the top programs in the state, but Star-Bulletin voters had KSH at No. 10 in the poll prior to the state tourney.
KS-Hawaii, with a plethora of talent under Guy Enriques, didn't solidify its championship run until losing twice in midseason.
"When we lost to Waiakea and Kealakekua, that opened our eyes," outside hitter Andrew Love said. "We said, we gotta work harder. Our practices were a lot sharper after that. We kind of bonded more as a team."
For Maryknoll and coach Shawn Doo, a week of disappointment, refocusing and a Division II state championship were exhausting and exhilarating. Doo, who guided Kauai to prominence before moving to Oahu, lost three players before the state tourney.
One of them, outside hitter Tri Bourne, watched from the bench as the Spartans surged to the crown.
"I was worried about team chemistry, but more than one person stepped up," said Bourne, who was not eligible to play at states because he attends another school. "I was stoked after that."
The top-to-bottom strength of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu forged a steely, unbreakable core for the Buffanblu.
"With Iolani and (Brad) Lawson, Kamehameha, Maryknoll, HBA, Mid-Pac and everyone else, we knew our league had a lot of parity," Balding said, noting that Iolani gave his Buffanblu squad its most difficult challenge this season.
Even with the breadth of quality teams, four of the five ILH teams in the Top 10 sustained significant drops. Kamehameha-Hawaii and Waiakea, with several players who compete year-round in Pilipaa Volleyball Club, finished among the top four.