Recapping last week's Far East high school sports tournaments
Published: May 23, 2010
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer racks the soccer stag straps and begins the new countdown (274 days):
-- Exactly what organizers of the Far East Softball and Girls Class AA Soccer Tournaments did not want to have happen, happened on the first day. Torrential weekend rainfall left Kadena Air Base's Four Diamonds practically under water, forcing play to begin Tuesday. The same almost happened to Mike Petty and Upper Fields at Kubasaki, where soccer play was delayed four hours ... and perhaps shouldn't have even begun that day, considering the slippery, muddy conditions. Quite a few players walked off the field toward a $75 laundry bill.
-- Speaking of weather, Mark Lange continues working toward his doctorate in squeegeeing, thanks to heavy rain that put all three soccer fields at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni under water on Tuesday. Boys Class A Soccer Tournament play resumed Wednesday with just two matches; they finished the next day, losing just one match in the process. Seoul American and Daegu American also got wet stuff midway through the Boys Class AA and Girls Class A Tournaments, but field turf negated any concerns about play stoppage.
-- Far East baseball wasn't so lucky. While they got in the championship game Wednesday in rain, heavy at times, at Naval Air Facility Atsugi's Bandy Field, the third-, fifth- and seventh-place games were canceled altogether. Since those pairings featured intra-area matchups, it was easy to figure out the tiebreakers; Yokota won the season series over Zama American, Nile C. Kinnick over Robert D. Edgren and Seoul American over Daegu American. Still, you'd rather finish on the field instead of on some whiteboard somewhere.
-- By the second day of the week, the baseball and softball tournaments resembled an upside-down cake. In softball, Zama jolted pre-tournament favorite Kadena 2-1 with an Alysa Prather walk-off two-run homer, whioe Edgren used four walks, two wild pitches and three errors to down Korea champion Seoul American 6-2; baseball host Zama American got two doubles and two RBIs from Alec Holt in an 11-1 drubbing of Korea champion Seoul American.
-- By week's end, though, Kadena's girls and Kubasaki's boys, favored to win the baseball tournament, righted their ships. MVPs Desirae Seals and Patrick "Duck" Duffy hit and pitched their teams to their respective titles, Kadena crushing Edgren 22-9 in blazing sunshine and Kubasaki beating Kadena 8-4 in the rain. And talk about sweet redemption for Duffy; a year ago, he was removed from the team for an unspecified code of conduct violation. Now, look at him. Way to come back, Duck.
-- That's twice in the last two seasons, and four times overall, that Osan American's girls soccer team rebounded from a subpar performance in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I tournament (fourth this year, second last year) to win the Class A Tournament title. This year, a team that lost most of its scoring power left it up to a ferocious defense led by defensive MVP Alina Hauter and goalkeeper Deanne Polaski, the hero of last year's Zama Class AA Tournament champion team.
-- Speaking of 2009 Class AA champion Zama, they continue to bear a penchant for playing bonus soccer. No fewer than three of the Trojans' matches went to penalty-kick shootouts, this time going 2-1 in the process, including the seventh-place match. Ironic that Zama got dethroned by the same exact score they beat Kubasaki in last year's championship match.
-- The rivalry to end all rivalries, Faith Academy vs. Seoul American in the Girls Class AA final. Two teams that were no strangers to each other: Liz Gleaves and Destinee Harrison lost to Kelly and Liz Hardeman and Grace Fern in the Class AA Volleyball semifinals in November on Guam, then beat Faith 50-47 in February at Camp Zama in the Class AA Basketball title game -- the same score that Faith beat Seoul by the year before.
-- Given Seoul American's performance in shootouts three weeks earlier in the KAIAC Tournament, it was pretty clear that with Liz Gleaves in net, the Falcons had a realistic shot whenever they went to PKs. Well, it happened twice last week, including the final, in which Gleaves stopped three shots, just as she did against Seoul Foreign in the KAIAC final.
-- That final, by the way, went all Game 7 of the 1991 World Series on us -- the first to last all the way into PKs, 110 minutes, without a regulation goal being scored in the history of Far East soccer tournaments. Even in the shootout, only one player, the Falcons' Lee Ann Schade, was able to find the back of the net, on either team. Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, won by Minnesota 1-0 over Atlanta, was the first Game 7 to enter extra innings scoreless.
-- Can Liz Gleaves jump or what?
-- Seoul American became the lowest seed coming out of round-robin play to win a title in Far East soccer tournament history. That's the second-lowest in any Far East tournament in history; the lowest was No. 7 Christian Academy Japan, rising all the way to last November's Class AA Volleyball title. The only winless seed to do so was St. Mary's International boys basketball team, which went 0-4 and had to win a play-in game just to reach the final 16 of the 2001 Class AA Tournament, also on Guam.
-- Maybe Kadena's boys were the only ones who felt they could reach the Class AA Soccer Tournament final, but they did, much to the surprise of those who felt CAJ would end up playing Hong Kong International in the final.
-- And they stayed with Hong Kong step-for-step, until that ill-fated bad throw-in in the 75th minute. Hong Kong simply did what a good team is supposed to, take advantage of a Kadena team that didn't set up its defense immediately, then found Stephen Liu in the middle for the match-clincher.
-- No question, Hong Kong entered that tournament on a mission; they'd lost 1-0 to CAJ last May, when CAJ scored in the first minute, then fended off seven excellent chances, three of them point blank.
-- Third time since 2005 that Kadena, with four Class AA titles to its credit, has lost in the final match.
-- First time that CAJ's boys hadn't played for the title since 2004.
-- Faith vs. Seoul marked the first time that no Okinawa team played for the Girls Class AA Tournament title.
-- Stan Schrock, we'll miss you.
-- Eatery of the Week: Arredondo's Cafe, the creation of Ryukyu International Soccer Association president Ramon Arredondo, set up in the tent area at Mike Petty Stadium. Burgers, franks and hot sweet corn, enough food to feed 50 third-world nations. Ole!
-- Hospitality golf cart of the week: For those in dire need of a caffeine and sugar jolt, Fred Bales and his son Caleb rode around Petty and Upper, stopping along the way to provide needed relief from a Box O'Joe. Cures whatever ails ya. Call it the subtropical soccer version of the Saint Bernard with the bourbon barrel around his neck.
-- Confidential to the "streaker" who interrupted Friday's Girls Class AA Tournament final wearing nothing but a ski mask, softball sliding shorts and a Cheshire Cat grin: That is sooooooooooo 1970s. File that under the "you just never know what you're going to see at a Far East Tournament, but some things we'd rather not see" folder.