Boys Volleyball
Punahou overwhelms Mililani in straight sets


Punahou's Kanai Akana puts a spike attempt up and over Mililani's Zavier Lieb. Akana finished with seven kills on the night in the win. Peter Caldwell | SL

SALT LAKE — It was a pick your poison kind of night for the Mililani Trojans as defending state champion Punahou took care of them in straight sets in a semifinal win Thursday night.

Six players registered kills to help the Buffanblu sweep Mililani, 25-16, 25-22 and 25-20, in the New City Nissan/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I Boys Volleyball Championships at Moanalua's gymnasium.

Punahou, who won the last four state titles, move on to face Na Menehune in the championship game at the Neal Blaisdell Center Friday night at 7 p.m.

Buffanblu setters DJ McInery and Todd Gruebner had a buffet against the Trojans and combined for 42 total assets.

"I think the great thing about this team is a different guy can step up on any given night," said Punahou coach Rick Tune. "We've had a different kill leader in a bunch of different matches."

The leading hitter for Punahou Thursday night was sophomore Ryan Wilcox with 16 kills. Akahi Troske added 10, Ethan Siegfried had eight and Kanai Akana chipped in seven more. Wil Stanley and Sam Bradley combined for five kills to round out the Buffanblu attack. 

"They're a talented team and every year they just reload," said Mililani coach John Ing. "It's not like any other team we played where we can stack on that one hitter. They're coming at you from all angles — back row, front row — and it's continuous and consistent."

The Trojans did not have that luxury on the other side of the net. Isaac Liva put down 16 kills and Kamalu Kaaa had 11, but had to work tireless to earn it as six combined swings by middles Chris Guillermo and Samuel Palompo made Punahou's block recognition that much easier.

Troske, who hit 0.769 for the match, led the Buffanblu's block party as he racked up four block assists.

"Their block is huge," said Ing. "We had a hard time with our outsides because our middles, they weren't involved."

Punahou had an early 4-1 lead in the opening set, but Mililani stuck around to keep it close until the media timeout with the Buffanblu leading 13-9. 

The Trojans cut it back to three, 14-11, before giving up a 4-0 run that gave Punahou a firm seven-point lead. The Buffanblu was able to ride the momentum and win game one convincingly, 25-16.

"We're still having trouble going hard right away, but I think it just takes us a little while to get into a groove," said Wilcox. "Once we get into a groove, we're pretty hard to stop."

Game two was a similar story as Punahou led 13-11 at the media timeout. Again, the Buffanblu was able to pull away to take a 21-14 lead. Mililani fought valiantly to avoid going down two games to none, but it was a little too late as Punahou took set two, 25-22.

Instead of letting the Trojans hang around in the beginning of set three, Punahou went on a 6-0 run to open the frame.

"I think we just got them on a little low right there," said Wilcox. "We executed during that little spurt of points.

The Buffanblu were able to ease off the gas pedal with a strong start with no consequence as they took set three, 25-20 and completed the sweep.

Even though Punahou didn't have to work as hard in the final set, Tune implored his team to be better if they hope to win against Na Menehune in the championship bout.

"We got to be better towards the end of that last set in just sustaining and executing, and our energy. We totally let up and just put it in cruise control."

Reach Michael Lasquero at






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