Things learned, observed in Pacific high school spring sports season Week 12.0
Published: May 15, 2012
“The Wall” and “The Bulldozer” corral the Mustangs – Katey Helwick could not have been more surprised or disappointed.
The American School In Japan forward stood point-blank away from netting the equalizer, five or six feet in front of the Nile C. Kinnick net and released a shot toward the far post that had “goal” written all over it.
“Permission denied,” Red Devils senior goalkeeper Emily “The Wall” Stith replied. Not with words, as much as with a full-out dive to her right and catching Helwick’s laser with her outstretched right hand.
It was 1-0 Red Devils, and the Mustangs were throwing everything at the Kinnick defense, cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, kitchen sinks, dumpsters, yet nothing seemed to penetrate the play of Stith in net, who made 23 saves on 23 ASIJ shots, and fellow senior sweeper Kayla Forsythe, nicknamed the “Bulldozer.”
What an incredible match Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey by the Bay. Because of its intensity, yes, but because of what was on the line:
-- If Kinnick wins the match, the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools girls soccer league title is theirs, their first since 2006 but their fifth since 2000.
-- If the match ends in a draw, Yokota wins its first outright league title since 2003.
-- If ASIJ wins the match, the Mustangs capture the league title outright, their sixth straight.
Thus, the teams could be forgiven for having played like there was no tomorrow.
Kinnick wasted little time lighting the goal lamp, Mari McDonald knocking in the rebound of a Red Devils shot that clanged off the left goal post. 1-0 Red Devils, 90 seconds or so into the match.
From that point on, virtually the entire match, Kinnick went into defensive posture and ASIJ spent the next 78½ minutes battling for an equalizer that would never come. The Mustangs beat the Red Devils to most of the 50-50 balls and controlled at least 75 percent, possibly 80, in the offensive end.
Helwick’s chance was the closest the Mustangs came, with 12 minutes left. To Red Devils coach Nico Hindie, they must have felt like 12 years, and 12 seconds to ASIJ coach Nathan Gildart; I’m sure each of them aged a good 20 years within the 90 minutes. Or at the very least, each sprouted 30 grey hairs.
As the axiom goes, to be good, you have to be both good and lucky. Or as I heard once, success is four parts hard work to one part luck. Well, the Mustangs didn’t have one shred of luck that entire match. Seemed as if everything the Mustangs sent into the Kinnick zone, Forsythe would contest or boot out of play, forcing a throw-in or some other form of frustrating delay for the Mustangs. And anything inside the 18 or the 6, Stith would either fly up between teammates and opponents to snag out of the air, leap to one side or the other to snare or dive full out, as in the Helwick shot case.
Still, at the end of the day, it was truly what championship soccer is all about. Well done, Mustangs and Red Devils.
To the gentleman who lent me his warmup for the duration of the match: Thank you, whoever you were!
Banner weekend in Dragon Land – Talk about time to party like it’s 1999 in Kubasaki Sports Nation, after last weekend, when Dragons soccer, softball and baseball won everything in sight where Okinawa Activities Council district championships were concerned.
Start with girls softball, as the Dragons finally got that 400-pound black-and-gold gorilla off their backs, winning their first best-of-three district championship series victory over nine-time champion Kadena.
It looked at first as if the Panthers would be the ones celebrating. Lauren Youngs pitched Kadena to a 4-2 win in Game 1 on Friday at Camp Foster. Then, the Panthers then took a 3-2 lead into the top of the seventh of Game 2 at Ryukyu Middle School and appeared to have that perfect 10 straight titles well in hand.
But Jackie Santoyo and Kaitlyn Farley flat took over. They knocked in the tying and go-ahead runs for the Dragons who rallied to win 5-3. Santoyo then hurled a complete-game victory in Game 3, a 2-1 series-clinching triumph for the Dragons.
Time to celebrate … for about 15 minutes, Dragons coach Stephanie Davis said. “We have a new focus,” she said of the next step – vying for a school-first Far East tournament gold next week at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
But for the first time, it will be Kadena looking up at Kubasaki entering the thing.
Kubasaki baseball did keep at least one thing as it had been, the Dragons’ OAC best-of-three title streak now at seven and counting, after surviving a Game 2 scare from Kadena. Tyler Smith threw a complete-game victory and helped himself with a homer and two RBIs as the Dragons beat the Panthers 8-3 in Game 1 at Kadena’s Four Diamonds.
Back on Kubasaki’s home turf of Camp Foster, Luke Carey homered and drove in three runs and Jared Paul, Scott Carrell and Cody Prince each had two RBIs as the Panthers walloped the Dragons 11-0 in Game 2. The clincher was a nail-biter that came down to Jaren Blessett scoring on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh. Matt Cottrell went the distance for the Kubasaki win.
On the pitch, Kubasaki made it a clean sweep of the regular-season series in Friday’s finales at Ryukyu Middle School.
Kai Stallings scored twice and assisted on Isaac Garza’s goal as the Dragons boys beat Kadena 3-0 to clinch the season series two wins and a loss.
Liz Fabila headed in Makayla Palazzo’s free kick and the Dragons blanked the Panthers 1-0, winning their season series two wins and a draw. Angelica Juliano, pressed into emergency starting goalkeeper duty, made five saves.
Just FYI, Kadena’s boys victory and Kubasaki’s girls victory in those matches in early March? Those were friendlies as agreed to by the coaches (though I was not told of this until last Friday).
On Sunday at Mike Petty, Garza and Stallings each scored again to give Kubasaki a 2-1 win over the Okinawa Diplomats. That gives the Dragons boys seven wins in their last nine matches, after an 0-7-2 start.
Kanto Invitational: Holding something back? -- Talk about bipolar weather for Saturday’s Kanto Invitational track and field meet at Yokota High School! One minute, the sky would be cloudless, the sun blazing its lustrous rays on participants and spectators; the next, clouds blanketed the place, wind kicked up, rain sprinkled in stretches and the temperature felt like it dropped 20 degrees in about 15 minutes.
To me, it looked like most of the athletes were holding something back, much reserve in the tank, saving it all for Far East, nine days hence.
Those who gave it their all included Kubasaki junior distance specialist Allie Reichenberg, who incredibly won her fifth straight event over an eight-day span in record time in two different events.
She ran the 3,000 in 11 minutes, 20.47 seconds – 4.13 seconds better than the three-year-old Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools record set by ASIJ’s Jennifer Stolle. That came a week after Reichenberg won the 800, 1,500, 3,000 and anchored the Dragons’ relay team to OAC golds, each in record time.
Reichenberg later finished fifth in the 800, snapping her record gold streak at five (“I hate the 800,” she said), before winning the 1,500 in 5:15.39.
But what wowed the good folk at Yokota’s Bonk Field, by coincidence also at Yokota High, was how Reichenberg finished each event. With a kick that began on the far curve of the last lap.
Two other cats who weren’t holding back a thing were sprinters Preston Brooks of Yokota and Kubasaki’s Jarrett Mitchell, two of a handful of cats expected to compete for the 100 and 200 Far East golds. Brooks edged Mitchell in each race, pronouncing himself fit for contention, and providing Mitchell with a belly full of motivation.
Then, there was Fred Gustafsson, the Yokota hurdling specialist who in the 110-meter became just the third Pacific athlete in history to complete the event in under 15 seconds. He ran a 14.93; the Pacific record is 14.1 set in 2006 by Eric Robinson of Kadena’s heralded “Great Eight.”
As to the team title chase, ASIJ demonstrated the best balance in the meet, from jumps and 200 specialist Liz Thornton – yes, Pacific, she IS a sophomore and she’s not going anywhere – to distance specialist Trevor Maggart, and captured the boys and girls and overall school title by comfortable margins.
Cougars come alive -- A big shout-out to the Osan American girls softball team. Seoul American may have clinched the DODDS Korea title, but the Cougars took down the Falcons a peg 9-3 before edging Daegu High 12-9 in the final regular-season weekend at home at Osan Air Base.
Seoul American’s baseball team finished a 10-1 campaign that I think few expected, given the Falcons lost nine starters plus their longtime coach after last season.
Less than a week until the green Far East flag flies. And lightning strikes.