Sideout Superheroes


POSTED: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More often than not, people root for the most improbable stories—those borne from underdogs beating the odds and upending seemingly predictable outcomes.

With 27 state titles since 1969, Punahou's boys volleyball teams haven't fit the Cinderella mold. This year's team is no exception. The Buffanblu are 9-0 heading into tomorrow's league matchup against rival 'Iolani and are currently the nation's top-ranked high school boys volleyball team, according to ESPN.

But despite the team's lack of underdog appeal, local volleyball enthusiasts can't help but cheer for the latest installment of Buffanblu domination. Despite its immense talent, the team has a carefree attitude that second-year coach Rick Tune finds refreshing.

“;They just love life,”; said Tune, a 1993 Punahou graduate and former Hawaii and Pepperdine volleyball standout. “;They're typical teenage boys that like to have a lot of fun, and we definitely don't want to discourage that.”;

Team co-captain Maddison McKibbin, one of the nation's top high school volleyball players, encouraged Tune this offseason to begin a series of lighthearted shenanigans to help build team chemistry.

So on Monday, as part of their themed practice series, the boys donned superhero outfits as they went through their normal digging and hitting drills. A few weeks prior, they practiced in their pajamas. And before that, the team celebrated Facial Hair February and Mustache March—though, unfortunately not all players had the necessary stubble to participate.

“;The season is so condensed. There's not a lot of time to enjoy each other's company and grow together,”; said Tune, who dressed head to toe in a Batman costume. “;Every once in a while we throw in something fun and it keeps things light.”;

“;We're serious on the court, but it's nice to have some fun and games every once in a while,”; said junior outside hitter and co-captain Henry Cassiday. “;If we're too serious we'll just break down.”;

Themed practices, although fun, are by no means unproductive and no less intense. By the end of Monday's practice, Tune's group of superheroes had sweat-drenched capes and tired expressions hardly befitting superior beings.

“;We all have fun, but at the same time it's usually one of our hardest practices. The coaches get on us, big time,”; said McKibbin, who was dressed as Quail Man from the animated television series “;Doug.”; The senior accepted a scholarship from USC and hopes to earn a starting spot as a freshman next season.

“;We can't sacrifice one practice a week just to dress up. We go hard,”; added junior middle blocker Austin Ako.

Punahou returns nine players from last year, which ended with a heartbreaking loss to 'Iolani in the 2008 state title game.

While many players insist they've moved on, they also acknowledge that the loss helped motivate them through offseason conditioning programs and intense practices.

“;It was the worst feeling in the world, but it put fuel in the fire,”; said sophomore outside hitter Joshua Taylor of last year's loss. “;We said we have to perform so nothing like that ever happens again.”;

The two teams met for the first time this year on March 28 in the title game of the Hawaii Boys Volleyball Invitational. The Buffanblu blitzed the Raiders 25-22, 25-12 in a nonleague match. They'll meet again tomorrow night in a much-anticipated Interscholastic League of Honolulu duel.

Although undefeated, the team needs to improve in several areas, insists Tune. Namely, the team has had trouble with slow starts in meaningful games. Kamehameha and Hawaii Baptist stole opening sets before ultimately falling to the Buffanblu.

“;We're not at the point we want to be at,”; said Ako. “;Sometimes we lack that fight that most teams playing us have.”;

“;It's completely in their control,”; Tune said of his team's slow starts. “;The amount of energy is all on them. It's not a weakness so much as a choice they have to make.”;

One thing Tune does not worry about is his team's ability to deal with the pressure of not only being the top-ranked team in the state, but also the nation. Almost all of his players have a lot of experience playing in high-stakes matches with club teams Outrigger or Kuikahi.

“;I tell the guys that that stuff doesn't help them win volleyball matches,”; Tune said about the accolades his team receives. “;We talk about what they need to do, not what's happening to them.”;

McKibbin, the team's most recognizable player, embraces the spotlight he and his teammates play under.

“;Punahou volleyball is a big name, and I'm proud to play for it, especially since it's my last year here,”; he said.

Punahou's unparalleled success in Hawaii boys volleyball over the years has put the school permanently on a pedestal—with opponents constantly trying to knock off the Buffanblu.

But, as many underdogs have quickly discovered, it's hard to find a weakness on a team comprised of superheroes.




Athlete of the Week

        Breland Almadova, 'Iolani baseball

        He hit a home run in a win over Mid-Pacific after going 3-for-4 with a home run against Damien.



Honor Roll


        » Alaka'i Aglipay, Punahou: home run and three RBIs against Mid-Pacific

        » Bronson Barbosa, Waianae: solo home run and three-run homer in two games against Kapolei

        » Buen Hatanaka, 'Iolani: home run and three RBIs against Mid-Pacific

        » Jonathan James, Kamehameha: 2-for-2 with two RBIs against Pac-Five

        » Jarin Kadooka, Kapolei: 3-for-3 with two RBIs against Waianae

        » Matthew McDaniel, Mid-Pacific: limited Punahou to three runs on three hits

        » Jordan Murai, Damien: 2-for-3 with an RBI against 'Iolani

        » Reyn Nagamine, 'Iolani: 3-3 with five RBIs against Damien

        » Micah Nakasone, Pearl City: struck out six batters in three innings in a win over Leilehua

        » Chace Numata, Pearl City: drove in three runs against Leilehua

        » Adam Oshiro, Pac-Five: 3-for-4 with an RBI against Punahou

        » Stanton Pilialoha, Maryknoll: 2-for-3 with two runs scored against Damien

        » Justin Protacio, Mid-Pacific: 2-for-3 with three RBIs and three runs scored against Punahou

        » Makana Ramie, Kamehameha: 2-for-2 with two doubles and three RBIS against Pac-Five

        » Dylan Schmeding, Kalaheo: 2-for-3 with an RBI against Roosevelt

        » Michael Suiter, Punahou: 3-for-4 with an RBI against Pac-Five

        » Derek Tan, Mid-Pacific: home run and four RBIs against Punahou

        » Nick Tasaka, Mid-Pacific: 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI against Punahou

        » Brandon Toriki, Kaiser: went 3-for-3 with four RBIs and closed out a win over Castle

        » Ryan Ueunten, Pac-Five: 3-for-4 with two extra-base hits against Punahou

        » Isaac Ventura, Damien: threw a complete game two-hitter with seven strikeouts in addition to going 3-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Monarchs over Maryknoll

        » Zachary Wong, Kaiser: struck out nine batters to get a win over Castle

        » Dorian Acierto, Kapolei: 3-for-5 with five RBIs against Waianae
        » Courtney Ahlo, Pearl City: 2-for-3 against Leilehua
        » Cherece Beyer, Kapolei: 2-for-5 with four RBIs against Waianae
        » Kai Clark, Kapolei: 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs against Waianae
        » Brittini Crabbe, Kapolei: 2-for-5 with two RBIs against Waianae
        » Sammy Ford, Pac-Five: 4-for-4 with three runs scored against Sacred Hearts
        » Brittney Guro, 'Iolani: pitched a five-hit shutout against Kamehameha
        » Alena Hookano, Pac-Five: 2-for-3 with two RBIs against Sacred Hearts
        » Kaohi Kalili, Kahuku: 2-for-3 with two RBIs against Kaimuki
        » Chelsea Kamai, Sacred Hearts: 3-for-4 against Pac-Five
        » Shealee Koki, St. Francis: 3-for-3 against Pac-Five
        » Ciera Paracuelles, Leilehua: 2-for-4 with two RBIs against Pearl City
        » Johnna Pedro, Kailua: 3-for-4 with two RBIs against Farrington
        » Ululani Reyes, St. Francis: 3-for-4 against Pac-Five
        » Kayla Sakamoto, St. Francis: 3-for-3 against Pac-Five
        » Shanna Tashiro, 'Iolani: 3-for-4 with two RBIs against Kamehameha
        » Kiana Vierra, Kailua: 2-for-3 with two RBIs against Farrington
        » Angie Yoshizu, Pac-Five: 2-for-3 with two RBIs against Sacred Hearts


Water polo
        » Shavanthia Avila-Cornel, Kaimuki: five goals against Kailua
        » Anela Alunbauh, Kaiser: five goals against McKinley
        » Nanea Fujiyama, Kamehameha: four goals against Pac-Five
        » Brailey Hirose-Hulbert, Punahou: four goals in win over 'Iolani
        » Skye Kusao, 'Iolani: three goals against Pac-Five
        » Gloria Lee, Kaiser: five goals against McKinley
        » Lea Masatsugu, 'Iolani: three goals against Pac-Five
        » Aisha Price, Punahou: three goals against 'Iolani
        » Rachell Randall, Le Jardin: four goals against Kamehameha




        » Lorens Chan, 'Iolani: shot a 68 at Turtle Bay to win the ILH tournament
        » Marissa Chow, 'Iolani: won two tournaments last week, one at Turtle Bay and one at Pali Golf Course




        » Micah Christenson, Kamehameha: put down 11 kills in an upset of 'Iolani
        » Kahale Morgan, Kamehameha: nine kills against 'Iolani




To nominate:
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