Punahou turned it up a notch after loss to rival 'Iolani


POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009
This story has been corrected.  See below.

In some years, this Kamehameha boys volleyball team may have won a state championship.





        Recent champions

Division I
        » 2009: Punahou
        » 2008: 'Iolani
        » 2006: Punahou
        » 2005: Punahou
        » 2004: Punahou
        » 2003: 'Iolani
        » 2002: Kamehameha
        » 2001: Kamehameha


Division II
        » 2009: Hawaii Baptist
        » 2008: Hawaii Baptist
        » 2006: Maryknoll
        » 2005: Kapaa


Note: No state tourneys held in '07




This year? No such fortune. Punahou was dominant, omnipotent and as close to perfect as can be. The Buffanblu capped a 20-1 season with a 25-11, 25-19, 25-21 sweep of a strong Kamehameha squad on Saturday, raising a question: Could this be one of the best Punahou teams in its storied history of 28 state-title winners?

But first, the numbers of Saturday night.

» Punahou hit .458 in the opening set. Kamehameha hit minus-.143

» Punahou finished the match at .310. Kamehameha was limited to minus-.011

» Forty-two digs for the Buffanblu and 23 for the Warriors

» Buffanblu 6-foot-7 sophomore Joshua Taylor's best performance came at the right time: 16 kills (.700)

Setter Taylor Crabb (31 assists) was efficient. So was senior Maddison McKibbin (nine kills, 10 assists, 10 digs). When the Buffanblu went to a 6-2 offense, using McKibbin's setting skills beside Crabb's, the weaponry and execution were deadly.

This may not just be one of the best teams in Punahou history. It could easily be the best in the nation.

Of course, mainland pollsters and watchers may point to Punahou's midseason loss to 'Iolani as a deal breaker. Punahou players look at that defeat as a catalyst.

“;Since the loss to 'Iolani, our team is different since then. We haven't dropped a set since then,”; said McKibbin, who was primarily responsible for limiting Kamehameha super soph Micah Christenson to five kills.

He relished the opportunity to be a key component in the scouting report and new strategy implemented by coach Rick Tune and staff.

“;(Coach) did a great job in scouting them,”; McKibbin said. “;We watched the (Kamehameha-Roosevelt semifinal) tape and did things a little differently.”;

If 28 state titles aren't enough for Punahou—including four of the last five—there may be a few more on the way.

“;I'm leaving a great team. There are great teams coming back and some new ones up and coming,”; said McKibbin, who will suit up for USC next season.

Crabb wouldn't mind a postseason national tourney to see where Punahou stacks up.

“;I think the talent on our team, we could be the best team in the country,”; he said.

The Buffanblu will play in the Best of the Best tournament next March, a tourney they placed seventh in last year despite injuries to Crabb and former All-State libero Erik Shoji. For now, Crabb will relish this title.

“;It's the first one of my career in any sport. It's the best feeling,”; the 6-foot-2 junior said.

Kamehameha won't be content with second place, of course. Christenson will return, and the program under coach Guy Kaniho is loaded; two junior varsity teams is the norm. Christenson, at 6-5, is a finesse player who also has tremendous setting skills.

When the Warriors adjusted to Punahou's version of a box-and-one defense with a 6-2 attack, they found much more success. Setter Daylan Chock became a weapon as a hitter.

Punahou reacted by leaving the same lineup on the floor and closing out the win.

“;We've got a system that's pretty flexible,”; Tune said. “;We can adjust within our system.”;

Taylor's emergence, Crabb's craftwork, McKibbin's fire—Punahou's stars and secondary contributors made the run to another state crown seem almost effortless. The past week's achievements included a sweep of then-top-ranked Hawaii Baptist. The Eagles went on to sweep through the D-II state tournament.

Tune wasn't about to forget about his fallen star, Jared Altenhof, who was injured in Friday's semifinals. Altenhof, a 6-5 middle, had played well, but after he got hurt, Jared Chang was ready and had three kills in the final.

“;He's a senior fireman. He plays five spots,”; Tune said. “;He's waited all season for one moment.”;








» The photo attached to this story is of the Hawaii Baptist volleyball team. Originally, the caption identified the team as being from Punahou.