Punahou sweeps 'Iolani for ILH volleyball title
|Photo gallery: Iolani vs. Punahou volleyball|
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
Punahou's block party ruined 'Iolani's Senior Day festivities as the Buffanblu boys volleyball team clinched the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title with a win over the Raiders yesterday at 'Iolani.
Punahou avenged a first-round loss to the Raiders with a 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 win.
"I don't think a lot of us looked at it as an ILH championship," Punahou senior Maddison McKibbin said. "A lot of us looked at it like, 'They came to Punahou and beat us last time. It's not going to happen again. No way.' "
Punahou improved to 13-1, with an undefeated record (6-0) in the second round. 'Iolani dropped to 11-3. Three ILH teams advance to the state tournament. Kamehameha and 'Iolani play tomorrow at Kamehameha at 6:30 p.m. to determine second and third place in the ILH.
Along with blocking — the Buffanblu racked up 10 blocks — Punahou also took a page from the Raiders' playbook, playing the "scrappy" defense 'Iolani is known for.
"We really wanted to focus on the defensive part of our game, because if we play defense and pass, we can win," said Josh Taylor, who finished with a match-high 12 kills. "We have excellent hitters so it works out really well if we can play defense."
Buffanblu coach Rick Tune said defense was "lacking" and they weren't making aggressive back-row plays in the first-round loss to the Raiders.
"We talked about it before the match: We have to be able to scrap just as well as 'Iolani scraps, because they are a good defensive team," Tune said. "We have to at least match that. And if we can match that, we give ourselves a better chance to win."
The Buffanblu went to Taylor and McKibbin early and often in the first set, and they tallied five and four kills, respectively. But it was Punahou's block that would help it establish a 16-10 lead. The Buffanblu maintained that margin, scoring two of their final three points of set one on blocks.
Tune said earlier in the season the coaching staff didn't dedicate as much time on blocking schemes, deciding offense was a priority.
"But guys have been really receptive to putting time in to work on blocking, and I think it's showing in our last four matches that our block can be a weapon for us," he said.
The Raiders took an early lead in the second set, with leads of 10-5 and 13-8. But Punahou responded with a five-point run, with two 'Iolani hitting errors, to give it a 16-15 lead.
"Blocks, especially the kind they were having, straight-down, stuff blocks, definitely played into our hitters' minds," 'Iolani coach Mike Among said. "The last time we beat them we were able to carve them up and they definitely worked on it, I can tell."
Punahou finished the second set scoring six of the final seven points, with back-to-back kills by Taylor Crabb to end it.
"We just weren't able to string up enough points together and push them to a closer score at the end," Among said. "We hung with them all the way through the first 20 points in pretty much all three sets, and then couldn't quite make those plays at the end. And Punahou volleyball is known for that."
It was the same in the third set, with Punahou again taking over in the teens, slowly pulling away at 19-17 on a block by Jared Altenhof and Crabb. It was able to score two points to every one by 'Iolani down the stretch, winning the match on a kill by Henry Cassiday.
OTHER ILH SCORES
Saint Louis def. Damien, 21-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 16-14.
Hawai'i Baptist def. Hawaiian Mission, 25-16, 25-11, 25-17.
Kamehameha def. Mid-Pacific, 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-21.
Leilehua def. Kahuku, 25-12, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 15-11.
Wai'anae def. Castle, 25-13, 25-12, 25-15.
Kaiser def. Waialua, 25-18, 26-24, 25-22.
Kapolei def. Kaimuki 22-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-20.
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com.