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Okinawa strikers taking their game to the next level

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 18, 2018

The last time Lexi Klimek set foot on a soccer field, as goalkeeper for Kubasaki High School, she took a knee to the face while trying to cover a loose ball, effectively ending her season.

It was May 17, 2017, and it was a case of injury added to insult, as the Dragons girls soccer team saw their three-year Far East Division I Tournament title streak end with a 2-1 loss to eventual champion Nile C. Kinnick.

Fast forward eight months later, just weeks before Klimek is to begin her senior season in the net for Kubasaki. She’ll enter that campaign having already committed to playing college soccer, at Midway University, an NAIA school about 20 minutes outside of Lexington, Ky.

She’s one of three Kubasaki soccer players and two from Kadena to have signed paperwork committing them to play at the next level in the last few weeks on Okinawa. Seniors Ryo Elliot and Judge Morgan of Kubasaki and Kadena’s Quentin Moore and Adrianna Gomez are also part of that group. And more signings are expected to follow, coaches at both schools said.

“I’m feeling good, very excited,” Klimek said about the prospect of playing collegiately. She was accorded preferred walk-on status, giving her a spot on the roster. She was also given a $2,000 partial athletic scholarship and a $32,000 academic scholarship renewable annually.

Midway’s Eagles play in the NAIA River States Conference. The blue and white were 7-7-1 last season overall. It will be Klimek’s first time to attend school at any level in the states since she was in the third grade at Waterloo, Iowa. Prior to arriving on Okinawa in 2012, Klimek lived and attended school at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, from the fourth grade on.

Elliot, a senior midfielder, has committed to Birmingham-Southern College, a Division III school in Alabama, as a preferred walk-on. He will receive partial academic grants-in-aid as part of the commitment.

The Panthers went 6-8-2 overall and 2-4-1 in the Southern Athletic Conference last season. Elliot, too, lived and went to school at Humphreys before arriving at Kubasaki two school years ago.

Morgan, a forward, is also well traveled, having spent his junior year at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax, Va., following his freshman and sophomore years at Stuttgart, Germany. He has committed as a preferred walk-on to Randolph Macon College, a Division III school of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in Ashland, Va. The Yellow Jackets were 14-3-1 overall and 6-2-1 in conference last season.

Gomez, a senior midfielder, is going to St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. - the same university for which Mike Callahan, former Kadena boys coach and six-time Far East D-I champion coach, played in the late 1980s. She, too, will also get a partial scholarship and is guaranteed a roster spot. The Division II Purple Knights were 3-11-2 overall and 2-11-1 in the Northeast Ten Conference last season.

Winding up the signings burst is Moore, a senior center back, who has committed as a preferred walk-on to Hiram College, a Division III school in Hiram, Ohio. He was also accorded an academic grant-in-aid package that will cover three years at the school. The Terriers went 5-12 overall and 3-6 in the North Coast Athletic Conference a season ago.

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