This article has been corrected.
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa – It was a day and a match that the eight players returning to Kubasaki’s girls soccer roster from last season won’t soon forget. Something they say they intend to rectify this year.
It was May 23 at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey Field, the third straight year the Dragons met American School In Japan in the Far East Division I Tournament final. But unlike 2012 when Kubasaki won on its home field, it was the Mustangs who prevailed, 2-0.
“We talk about it a lot,” Dragons sophomore Peyton Lewis said. “We were so close last year. We’re just trying to bring the banner home. We have a solid varsity team. We think our chances at Far East are very good.”
ASIJ vs. Kubasaki has become perhaps the Far East D-I tournament’s premier rivalry; the two have faced each other for the banner four times since 2008. Kubasaki won 2-0 on its home pitch in 2012 and ASIJ prevailed 1-0 in both 2011 and 2008.
Although viewing the rivalry and the two teams from afar as a teacher at Lester Middle School, first-year Dragons coach Rob Loyd said of the two teams: “They’re consistently competitive at Far East.”
To get back the banner, a Dragons team solid up front with junior Marissa Mesquita and Sydney Johnson and with junior goalkeeper Harleigh Lewis must get through a Mustangs unit featuring a slew of veterans, including All-Far East selections Katey Helwick and Joey Yamada.
“We’ve got a lot of energy,” Loyd said. “They’ve come out wanting to play. They play exceptionally well together.”
Other teams to watch for include DODDS Japan power Nile C. Kinnick, the 2012 Kanto Plain champion which placed third last May. Kaile Johnson, with 77 goals in three years, returns for her senior season.
Seoul American, with 12 players back from last year, expects to contend in Korea as well as D-I.
The season begins this weekend with DODDS officials still not certain where the D-I tournament will be. Kinnick is hosting it, but a venue has yet to be determined; a decision is expected next week.
At the Division II level, Sung Plourde returns to Osan’s girls team after coaching the boys last year. But the question for the Cougars, who won their Pacific-record eighth D-II Tournament last May, is how to replace Ebony Madrid’s 40 goals; she’s now at Ramstein.
The D-II races in Japan and Korea figure to be wide-open ones.
In Japan, Zama is back healthy and Matthew C. Perry having come back to Earth a bit, with a new coach in Suzette Lopez and has to replace three players who combined for 58 goals and 23 assists.
Humphreys may be a team to watch in Korea. Sisters Sophia and Isabella Nocera move in from Germany, where they were Olympic Development Program players. They join another ODP veteran and freshman Kaylee Spielman. Richard Walrath coaches the first-year program with several ex-Osan players.
Daegu, rich in veterans and with versatile senior Monica Morales all the way back from an ACL tear, could also figure in the Korea race. But replacing departed seniors Sarah Wright (States) and Lari Robertson (track) could be difficult.
Sophia and Isabella Nocera were characterized incorrectly in an earlier version of this article.