Huntington Beach sweeps Punahou in 3 tightly contested sets

Mar. 31—In the end, Punahou's push could not get national powerhouse Huntington Beach over the edge.

In the end, Punahou's push could not get national powerhouse Huntington Beach over the edge.

The perennial California Interscholastic Federation title contender withstood the Buffanblu for a hard-earned 29-27, 26-24, 25-19 sweep in the championship match of the Clash of the Titans boys volleyball tournament on Saturday night at Hemmeter Fieldhouse.

"Our serving and passing were fine, but that was our worst hitting percentage. We didn't play our best. Credit to Huntington Beach, " Punahou coach Rick Tune said. "We had triple the amount of errors that we usually have."

Punahou played Kamehameha on Wednesday in a key ILH showdown, winning in four sets, before playing three best-of-five-sets matches on Friday and Saturday to reach the Clash final.

The Oilers came into the Clash ranked No. 4 nationally by Punahou is ranked No. 8 by MaxPreps.

Huntington Beach is 24-4 overall.

"Any time you can come here and play against this program in front of this crowd, it's an honor. To come away with a victory is great, " coach Craig Pazanti said. "I'm really proud of the guys. It's been a long week and we had a lot of fun. To finish it with a win like this is great."

Huntington Beach will fly home to California this morning with a renewed perspective. They are 1-2 in the CIF-Southern Section Surf League.

"We're in third place in our league, so we've still got some work to do, " Pazanti said. "We created some different matchups and different opportunities for our guys. We tried a little one-setter offense, a little two-setter offense. Just trying to find the right combination that's going to click for us late in the year."

Senior setter Jake Pazanti, a Long Beach State signee, led the Oilers with 12 kills, adding 10 digs and 21 assists, as well as some well-timed blocks. Nick Ganier and Aidan Dubno had 10 kills each, and libero Aiden Atencio chipped in 10 digs.

Their starting outside hitter, Bennet Tchaikovsky, is recovering from meniscus surgery and could return by the CIF playoffs.

Evan Porter paced Punahou (11-2 overall ) with 13 kills. Middle Adam Haidar and outside hitter Brody Badham tallied seven kills each, and Afatia Thompson chipped in seven kills. Elijah Smith (20 assists ) and Nalu Akana (19 assists ) directed the attack.

Akana also had a team-high nine digs. Porter had eight digs, while Badham had seven. Akana, a sophomore, didn't lack for confidence.

"I thought we could beat them. We've got to cut down on our errors. We'll work on that at practice, " he said.

The opening set was in the hands of Huntington Beach with a 19-15 lead, but Punahou rallied to tie it at 20. After a roof by Haidar and a right-side kill by Thompson, Punahou had a 23-21 lead.

The Beach rallied to tie it at 23 and 24. Punahou was in the midst of three consecutive service errors, allowing the Oilers to stay alive. Trailing 27-26, Huntington Beach tied it with a kill by Ganier. After Ben Arguello's kill on an overpass, they had the lead, 28-27.

Porter's hitting error into the net ended the opening set.

The Buffanblu stayed close again in set two, tying it at 22, 23 and 24. However, freshman Logan Hutnick came through with a kill in the trenches, and Pazanti roofed Thompson to end the set.

The Oilers had their largest cushion in the third set, using their length, height and relentless defense to complete the sweep.