Punahou still perfect


POSTED: Saturday, October 31, 2009

Overmatched and undersized at nearly every position, the Moanalua girls volleyball team flummoxed and frustrated unbeaten, top-seeded Punahou in a Division I semifinal match of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball State Championship yesterday.

But the Buffanblu had simply too much depth and too much power as they overcame a talented and scrappy Moanalua team in a match that was much more competitive than the 25-19, 25-17, 25-23 final score indicated.

“;It was the kind of match we needed,”; said a clearly relieved Punahou coach Jim Iams. “;It was a fight.”;

With the win, top-ranked Punahou (21-0) advances to tonight's state championship match, where it will face longtime Interscholastic League of Honolulu nemesis Kamehameha at the Stan Sheriff Center. The match will start at 7.

The two teams played for a state championship last season, with the Warriors sweeping Punahou in three games. Though Punahou has bested Kamehameha in two meetings this season — once in the regular season and once for the ILH tournament championship — the Buffanblu were quick to put the pressure on Kamehameha as the favorite, citing the school's long dominance in the sport.

“;Despite what everyone else says, we're going into that match as the underdog,”; Iams said. “;They're the four-time defending state champion, and we're just going to hopefully go with them and compete with them and hopefully give them a tough run.”;

Moanalua made the semifinal night tough for a Punahou team that is used to dominating with its offense from hitters like middles Brigitte Russo and Carina Thompson to outside hitters Tai Manu-Olevao and Juliana Behrens. And while those four got their swings (they combined for 44 of the team's 47 kills), they were far from overpowering as Na Menehune's superb back-row defense scrambled and dug countless spikes.

“;Their defense was amazing,”; said Behrens, who finished with 11 kills but needed 45 swings to do so. “;It was really hard playing against them. Swing after swing they picked up, even if we thought it was going down.”;

Sophomore libero Katiana Ponce led all players with 27 digs.

“;We just hustled,”; said senior Carsen Mata, who contributed 12 digs. “;I think we outplayed them. We just made more errors. I knew that's what it was going to come down to, those mistakes. They were just a little bit cleaner. ... We did everything we could. I'm proud.”;

Moanalua had its chances in the first and third sets. In the first set, after overcoming an ugly start, Na Menehune took a 17-15 lead on the heels of a 7-2 run. But Punahou finished the set with five kills to end the threat. In the third set, Moanalua tied it up at 22, but Punahou's back-to-back kills and then a stuff block ended the match.

Na Menehune (17-4) falls to the third-place game, where they will play Oahu Interscholastic Association rival Kahuku, which recently beat Moanalua twice in the OIA playoffs.

But today's spotlight will once again be on the two ILH powers facing off for state supremacy. Can the Buffanblu continue their magical season and end Kamehameha's reign? Or will the Warriors hand Punahou a heart-breaking first loss of the season and push their state championship streak to five? One match will decide it all.

“;We're so excited,”; Behrens said. “;It's time for us to win.”;

Division II

Hawaii Baptist 3, Hilo 0

The Eagles have a chance to win their third straight state title in Division II after a sweep of fourth-seeded Hilo, 25-15, 25-19, 25-19.

Hawaii Baptist will face Word of Life in today's final at 5 p.m.

Hawaii Baptist has defeated Word of Life in two previous meetings, and faced the Firebrands in the D-II final last year, with HBA winning in a five-set thriller.

Word of Life 3, Molokai 0

Word of Life advanced with a sweep of the second-seeded Farmers 25-22, 26-24, 25-21.

The Firebrands (18-5), who have defeated two seeded teams over the last two days, were led by Kainoa Ocasek's 15 kills. Kalei Adolpho led the Farmers (14-1) with 11 kills.


State Volleyball Tournament

Division I

» Punahou def. Moanalua 25-19, 25-17, 25-23

» Kamehameha def. Kahuku 27-25, 25-16, 25-20


» Farrington def. Kamehameha-Maui 19-25, 25-18, 15-13

» Waiakea def. Mililani 25-20, 25-23

Division II

» Hawaii Baptist def. Hilo 25-15, 25-19, 25-19

» Molokai vs. Word of Life 25-22, 26-24, 25-21


» Castle def. Kailua

25-18, 25-21

» University def. Kaiser 25-23, 26-24