KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Talk about a soccer season series that’s as level as it gets.
Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s girls have played twice, with each team winning 1-0, each of those goals coming in the 73rd minute, and each coming as a result of a set piece, off a free kick.
One way or another there will be a winner in the rubber match of the series on Friday at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium, the final regular-season match before the Far East Division I Tournament later this month, also at Kubasaki.
Should the match be level after full time, it will be decided by penalty-kick shootout, by agreement of both coaches. That would serve two purposes: The season series gets a clear-cut winner and teams get practice on PKs. Shootouts will help decide Far East playoff matches.
Panthers coach Abe Summers says he hopes the outcome Friday is resolved far sooner than in the previous two encounters.
“I don’t want to wait until the 73rd minute to figure it out and I don’t want to tie and go to PKs, either,” Summers said.
Dragons coach Terry Chumley says she’s looking forward to a “great, competitive game from both teams, and we’ll see how hard we’ve worked in the meantime since our last match.”
The Dragons beat Kadena 1-0 on April 2 on a free kick by Sydney Johnson. The Panthers replied with a 1-0 victory on April 16 when Ericka Lunn gathered a booming free kick from Emily Anderson and banged in a point-blank shot past a diving Kubasaki keeper Harleigh Lewis.
Kadena has fashioned its 6-3-2 record thanks mainly to defense; the Panthers have scored just 21 goals in those 11 matches.
To have any chance of stopping the Dragons (5-2), Summers says they need to again mark up on Kubasaki’s main offensive weapons, Johnson (eight goals) and Marissa Mesquita (team-leading 11).
“They have two very strong, athletic forwards,” Summers said. “And if we can shut them down as we did the last time, I think we give ourselves a chance.”
Aside from the presence of Anderson, the sweeper, the Panthers “pass well, they’re aggressive, they play good teamwork,” Chumley said.
To have a shot at taking the season series, the Dragons must keep the ball away from the middle, Chumley said. “We need to keep the ball out wide as much as possible and out of the center of the field,” she said.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday, part of a weekend of district finals in Japan, Okinawa and Korea.
After going 7-1 against Kubasaki in the softball regular season, Kadena looks to make it two district best-of-three season series in a row. Games are at 5 p.m. Friday at Foster Field 2 and at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., the latter if necessary, at Ryukyu Middle School’s Habu Field on Kadena Air Base.
Track and field district finals begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, the Kanto Plain finals at Yokota’s Bonk Field and the DODDS Korea at Humphreys’ Blackhawks Field.