The Hawaii Baptist Academy boys volleyball team got its season off to a rousing start Tuesday night at Punahou's Hemmeter Fieldhouse. The Eagles defeated the nine-time defending Division I state champion Buffanblu 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22. It was the season opener for both teams.
The match was closely contested throughout. After splitting the first two sets, HBA built a 20-14 lead in set three. But Punahou rallied to close to 23-19 and 24-22 before HBA finished to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set was more of the same as the teams were tied 7-7 through the early part of the set. With Punahou leading 14-11, HBA senior Jackson Lincoln put a shot down the line for a kill. Following a Buffanblu error, Lincoln then got a solo block and the set was tied at 14. Eagles' senior Jared Cruz had an off-speed kill to give HBA a 19-17 lead. Then with the Eagles clinging to a 21-20 lead, senior Matt Mokan had two kills sandwiched around a service ace by sophomore Kamden Kaneshiro-Takeuchi and HBA suddenly had match point at 24-20. Following two Buffanblu kills, the match ended on a Punahou net violation.
Offensively, the Eagles were led by Mokan and Cruz, who had 16 kills and 14 kills, respectively. Anchoring the defense were Mokan (14 digs), Kaneshiro-Takeuchi (12 digs) and Cruz (11 digs).
It was an historic victory for the Eagles and perhaps the first ever over the Buffanblu in the school's history. Still, veteran coach Teoni Obrey saw the match simply as a starting point for his team's season. "This win is a good way to start and it helps build our confidence. Both teams made a bunch of unforced errors tonight. We will definitely need to clean things up on our side of the net if we want to reach our goals." He added, "We have a lot of guys learning new positions and roles, but it will be exciting to see this team's growth."
HBA, which won nine Division II state titles between 2008 and 2017, is in its sixth year in Division I.
The Eagles and Buffanblu will next face each other March 28 at HBA's Dan Liu Gym.