Buffanblu's middles key in win


POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2009

When it comes to the top-ranked and undefeated Punahou girls volleyball team, the outside hitters get a lot of the attention, but it may well be the middle hitters who are the key to whether the Buffanblu can capture the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball Division I State Championship this year.

While outside hitters Juliana Behrens and Tai Manu-Olevao typically lead the team in kills in most matches, middle hitters Carina Thompson and Brigitte Russo are the ones doing the grunt work, the unappreciated labor along the net. And when Behrens and Manu-Olevao go into hitting funks as they sometimes do, the middles' quick swings are the reliable anchors in the powerful Punahou offense.

“;I love setting my middles,”; said senior setter Malia Patterson with a smile yesterday. “;They always get the job done. I just have to put the ball up there and they swing at it.”;

She should be smiling. While other teams may have a hitter or two who can pound with the Buffanblu's outside hitters, Punahou's middles are a big reason why its only loss of the season was to Redondo Union in 'Iolani's annual preseason Ann Kang Invitational.

And in Punahou's first action in states this year, the middles carried the early load as the Buffanblu rolled easily over Farrington 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 yesterday at McKinley High School. Russo and Thompson combined for 17 of the team's 31 kills in the first two games. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 senior, finished with a match-high 12 kills on 17 swings with only two hitting errors (.588). Russo, a 6-0 junior, contributed six kills on seven swings with no hitting errors (.857).

The win puts Punahou (20-0) in the Division I semifinals where it will face a Moanalua squad that beat fourth-seeded Kamehameha-Maui yesterday. Today's Punahou-Moanalua match is at McKinley and is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Though the Buffanblu had to shake off some rust from having not competed since wrapping up the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title on Oct. 17, they absolutely stymied an overmatched Farrington team that had no answer for Russo and Thompson in the middle.

“;They're a big part of it,”; said Punahou coach Jim Iams. “;It sets up a lot of things. ... It's a big part of what we have to do to be successful.”;

Punahou's middles could have another big match against Moanalua in tonight's semifinal. Na Menehune rely heavily on outside hitters Gabby Matautia and Erin Perez and opposite Carsen Mata. Those three combined for 31 of the team's 41 kills in the quarterfinal win over Kamehameha-Maui yesterday.

With a championship game berth on the line tonight, Punahou's middles are ready, willing and able to carry the load once again for the Buffanblu.

“;I definitely think the middles are most efficient right now, especially in that game,”; Russo said. “;It was really easy for us to go corner to corner. We've been practicing really hard. Right now, what's going for us is going to the middle, so I'm excited for that because that means for more swings for me. I can't wait until we play bigger teams.”;

Moanalua 3, Kamehameha-Maui 0

One year after losing in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, sixth-ranked Na Menehune have gone one step farther. Moanalua, which finished second in the Oahu Interscholastic Association to Kahuku, knocked off the Warriors 25-21, 25-19, 25-23 yesterday at McKinley High School.

Moanalua (17-3) advanced to the semifinals, where it will play top-seeded Punahou today. KS-Maui, seeded fourth in Division I, suffered its first loss of the season.

But Na Menehune had to scrap to sweep the Warriors, who finished third last year. Kamehameha-Maui held as much as a five-point lead in the third set, but Moanalua finally tied the game at 17-17 and scored its last two points on Carsen Mata kills to end the match.

Senior Gabby Matautia and Mata had 12 kills and 10 kills, respectively. Sophomore libero Katiana Ponce led all players with 24 digs.





        Division I

        » Kahuku def. Mililani 25-16, 25-8, 25-18

        » Moanalua def. Kamehameha-Maui 25-21, 25-19, 25-23

        » Punahou def. Farrington 25-14, 25-15, 25-14

        » Kamehameha def. Waiakea 25-14, 25-16, 26-24

        » Aiea def. Baldwin 22-25, 25-20, 17-15
        » Kamehameha-Hawaii def. Roosevelt 25-19, 17-25, 15-8


Division II
        » Molokai def. University 25-14, 16-25, 25-22, 25-16
        » Hilo def. Castle 25-22, 25-19, 21-25, 25-21
        » Hawaii Baptist def. Kailua 25-13, 25-18, 25-21
        » Word of Life def. Kaiser 26-24, 25-22, 25-20


        » Waimea def. Seabury Hall 25-19, 28-26
        » Hawaii Prep def. Honokaa 25-22, 24-26, 15-5