Ohana Is The Tune At Punahou

Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson (right) goes up for a block against Danny Andrews. Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@midweek.com

Rick Tune says he receives about four to five texts from his former players before each and every Punahou boys volleyball match.

“We’re on the same wave length,” the Punahou head coach says.

That loyalty even after leaving high school is a true indication of the ohana tradition of Punahou boys volleyball. Tune estimates that about a dozen of his former players are competing at the highest level of NCAA Division I these days – at Stanford, USC, UCLA, Pacific, Long Beach State, Pepperdine and other great schools – and yet many of them

still take time to keep up with the boys back home.

“Our players come from great families that instill the right attitudes in their sons. Winning (and achieving) success is a byproduct of the culture of doing things the right way. We focus on character-building, being part of a team, working hard and self-sacrifice,” he says.

This year’s Punahou team is following in the proud footsteps of the many championship teams of the past. The Buff ‘n’ Blue are ranked No. 1 in the state and are odds-on favorites to earn the top seed at the upcoming HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships May 2 to 5 at Blaisdell Arena.

But Tune knows the road to States won’t be easy.

“The ILH is always tough. There are about five teams that are really, really strong,” he says, citing Iolani and defending state champion Kamehameha, as well as Hawaii Baptist at the DII level and Maryknoll. “You always expect greatness from Iolani and Kamehameha, but the surprises are Maryknoll, who is really doing well, and HBA has as good a program as anybody in the state.”

The Punahou head coach also sees strong competition from the OIA and Neighbor Islands.

“Kalaheo is big and physical and very talented, (and) Moanalua has been tearing it up, too,” he says. “Over on the Big Island, Kamehameha-Hawaii has lots of speed and talent. There are other strong programs – I don’t want to leave anybody out, but these are the ones I know.”

Tune says the culture and weather of Hawaii is what helps to make the level of high school volleyball here so strong.

“It’s one of the rare places where Hawaii has an advantage,” he says. “We have the beaches and we can play 24/7. Volleyball is practically indigenous to Hawaii, and that makes a difference.”

He cites the recent Clash of Titans Volleyball Tournament as an example of the volleyball fervor in the Islands.

“We had almost 2,000 fans for the Mira Costa-Punahou match,” he says.

Next year, Tune hopes to have powerful Loyola of Los Angeles join the spring break tournament.

“If they’re able to come, that would mean we would have the last three national champions in one place,” he says. “Punahou won the national title in 2010, Mira Costa in 2011, and Loyola, with the way they are playing, should be the national champs in 2012.”

Tune’s passion for the game and for his players comes through loud and clear with every comment.

“I almost feel like I’m parenting 16 kids,” he says. “We work through their challenges and enjoy their successes.”

This year, Tune and Company continue to revel in many successes, with former players keeping in touch all the way.

That’s the Punahou tradition.