DIVISION I STATE BOYS VOLLEYBALL
Punahou plays its way into final
PUKALANI, Maui » A cry of "O-I-A! O-I-A!" went up in a corner of the King Kekaulike gym just as last night's match was about to get under way.
It came from a group of mainly Waianae fans and players, providing some much-needed verbal and emotional support for their public-school cousins from Roosevelt High of the Oahu Interscholastic Association in their semifinal showdown with three-time defending champion Punahou.
The top-seeded Buffanblu quickly silenced that segment of the crowd by again demonstrating that, when it comes to volleyball, they are in a different league -- literally and figuratively.
The Interscholastic League of Honolulu champions jumped out to leads of 6-1 and 15-5 en route to a 25-18 victory in the first game and sealed the deal by winning the second game 25-17 for a sweep of the Rough Riders.
The victory earned Punahou a berth in tonight's 7 o'clock final against ILH rival Iolani.
The Raiders advanced by virtue of a 25-23, 27-25 victory over yet another ILH team, Kamehameha in a semifinal held at the neighboring Kamehameha-Maui gym.
Despite Punahou's dominance in romps past Lahainaluna and Roosevelt, coach Rick Tune said there are a few areas his team needs to clean up prior to tonight's final.
"We pride ourselves in our passing. It's the foundation of what we do. But we struggled with our passing until midway through the first game before we got that part going," Tune said.
In the second game, Punahou's typically solid serving game went awry, with the Buffanblu committing six service errors.
But -- all things considered -- Tune gave his team high marks.
"We're a young team," Tune said. "We have three sophomore starters. This is their first state tournament experience in terms of being on the court."
The young, but talented, trio is composed of Henry Cassiday, Taylor Crabb and Kaiwi Crabb, all 6-foot-3.
Cassiday got on the end of Erik Shoji's sets for a match-high seven kills. Taylor Crabb had five kills, an ace and several key blocks. Kaiwi Crabb saved his three kills for late in the second game.
"As the game went on, we seemed to get tired and fatigued," Taylor Crabb said of Punahou's sloppy play late in the second game.
"It was more mental than physical," he added. We're a bunch of young guys. Sometimes, when we feel as if we're starting to pull away, we lose our focus and then the other team is back in it again."
Tune is hopeful Punahou will avoid those sorts of letdowns against a familiar and respected rival in tonight's final.
"Iolani is a very good team," Tune said. "They are very athletic and very talented, although they are more built around one player. Bradley Lawson is an elite player and we have to find a way of slowing him down."
Containing the 6-7 Lawson is a tall task, indeed. But that's what it's going to take for Punahou to add another state volleyball award to its bulging trophy case.