Punahou tandem is best in state
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
Punahou's strengths and accolades were evident.
Dangerous hitters at all positions. Undefeated season. Second straight state title. Ranked No. 1 nationally.
But away from the fanfare was where Punahou did everything to get to where its season culminated. Countless hours of tough practices, scrimmages against each other and its alumni, and working with each other off the court. The Buffanblu (23-0) did everything together to finish on top.
On a team loaded with talent, it was perhaps fitting to recognize more than one player. Punahou outside hitters Taylor Crabb and Joshua Taylor were voted 2010 Advertiser State Co-Players of the Year by coaches statewide.
"Everyone kind of looks at the way we finish, but no one really sees the behind-the- scenes stuff," said Taylor, a 6-foot-7 junior. "Not only do we have the natural talent, we work our butts off. Every day in practice, we're working hard. We earn what we get and we're really proud of that."
Crabb and Taylor both made the first team last year. Crabb, who can set and hit, was named the Most Outstanding Player at the state tournament last month after Punahou defeated Kamehameha. Taylor dislocated his pinky finger in his hitting hand (right) late in the season, but returned to the state tournament to hammer 26 kills combined in the semifinal and championship matches.
"It's a great honor, especially to be by someone like Josh and in the state of Hawai'i. Very humbling," said Crabb, a 6-3 senior who will play at Long Beach State. "What helped us was our coaches and our teammates, who are also our friends. They stuck by us no matter what so we stayed together."
Punahou's Henry Cassiday, a 6-3 senior outside hitter who will play at USC, and teammate Benjamin Lam, a 6-4 junior middle hitter, both made the first team. Having all that talent was a luxury for the Buffanblu. Punahou won the prestigious Best of the West Invitational in California back in March, elevating the team to a No. 1 national ranking in ESPN Rise's Fab 50 it held the rest of the season.
"It takes a lot of stress off the setter, whether it's me or Tyler (Kubota), knowing we have Josh, Henry, Ben and Austin (Ako)," Crabb said. "There's people you can rely on."
It was an ideal season where players struck a balance in all aspects of the game.
"Everyone loves to have fun, loves to win and never gives up," Crabb said. "The main thing is everyone loves to have fun. We know the balance of playing around, having fun, getting serious and working hard."
Kamehameha, which lost to Punahou in the state final for the second straight year, was led by 6-5 junior outside hitter Micah Christenson, who made the first team for the second straight year. He was also the Advertiser's Co-Player of the Year for basketball this season.
"Micah, he had to hit for Kamehameha. He did that very well, helped their team in hitting," Crabb said. "He's also very versatile and can set. He's a great setter."
Roosevelt's Joby Ramos is also a repeat selection to the first team. The 6-1 senior setter, who is headed to the University of the Pacific, helped boost his team's lineup this season by splitting time at outside hitter. The Rough Riders won their second straight O'ahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference title.
"He's a very versatile player. He set for us (in club volleyball) for a time," Taylor said. "He has very nice hands."
'Iolani, which finished third in the state, placed two players on the first team in Scott Sakaida and Logan Nowack. Sakaida was a unanimous choice by coaches for the libero position. The 5-9 senior, who is headed for Stanford, was a threat for any hitter.
"He digs practically everything, so you kind of have to change your hits, you have to change the angles in which you hit around Scooter," Taylor said.
Nowack, a 6-foot junior, played setter and opposite.
"He's an incredible player," Taylor said. "He can hit, his setting is butter, he's one of the scrappiest players I ever met."
Punahou coach Rick Tune was voted Coach of the Year.
"It's really nice to have a coach who played at a high level, teaching you at a lower level to get you to the level he played at," Taylor said. "His knowledge and IQ of the game is through the roof. It's really great to be playing for a guy like him."