Kadena Panthers Nathan LaGrave, left, has been named Stars and Stripes male Athlete of the Quarter.

Kadena Panthers Nathan LaGrave, left, has been named Stars and Stripes male Athlete of the Quarter. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Kadena Panthers Nathan LaGrave, left, has been named Stars and Stripes male Athlete of the Quarter.

Kadena Panthers Nathan LaGrave, left, has been named Stars and Stripes male Athlete of the Quarter. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Kadena Panthers junior striker Jennifer Abel, above, shares Stars and Stripes female Athlete of the Quarter honors with sister and teammate Dianne Abel.

Kadena Panthers junior striker Jennifer Abel, above, shares Stars and Stripes female Athlete of the Quarter honors with sister and teammate Dianne Abel. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Dianne and Jennifer Abel’s contributions to their team’s success were easily discernible on the stat sheet: they combined for 131 goals and 78 assists as Kadena won its third straight Far East Girls Class AA soccer title.

Nathan LaGrave’s contributions weren’t as apparent but coaches Michael Callahan and John Reay said they were no less important. LaGrave played and shone wherever needed in leading the Panthers to their third Class AA boys title in four years.

As a result, the three Kadena black-and-gold stars share Stars and Stripes Athlete of the Quarter honors for the 2006 Pacific high school spring sports season.

Coach Hoa Nguyen likens having the Abels playing for him to sitting on a “gold mine.”

“It’s never happened to me before,” said Nguyen, who’s coached Kadena to four Class AA crowns in his seven years at the team’s helm. “I’ve coached many great players but I’ve never had two like them at the same time. They’re like identical twins, two for the price of one.”

Besides sharing the team captaincy and spearheading the offense, the Abels are solid students and role models for the team, Nguyen said, leaders who also listen, strive constantly to improve their game and elevate their teammates’ level of play.

“They bring everything to the game and to the field,” he said.

LaGrave mustered only 11 goals and 10 assists. But his ability to lead, distribute the ball and coach on the field provided the ultimate boost to the team, his coaches said.

He spent most of the season at midfield “to anchor our efforts in creating scoring opportunities for our forwards,” Callahan said. “Although he did not have the ‘numbers,’ his efforts certainly were admirable in more of a playmaking role.”

When facial injuries sidelined starting sweeper Alex Mierzejewski during the Class AA semifinals, Callahan dropped LaGrave back to the key defensive position, where he shut down senior midfielder Chris Monroy (30 goals) in Kadena’s 3-0 championship shutout of Kubasaki.

“He is a coach’s dream,” Callahan said. “He can not only play anywhere on the field but can excel at any position.”

Before the championship, Reay said, LaGrave told him, “I just hope I can live up to Alex’s standards.” After the match, LaGrave offered his All-Tournament medal to Mierzejewski “as a mark of his respect and admiration of him,” Reay said.

LaGrave now will move on to Division I Bucknell, where he’ll play soccer on a partial scholarship. Dianne Abel also will play Division I soccer, at Winthrop, with her former Kubasaki arch-rival and best friend Erin Foote. Jennifer Abel will return next season in possession of the Pacific record for goals in a season (70) and 109 career goals.

Coach of the quarter: Never had a Robert D. Edgren soccer team finished above .500 until this spring under first-year coach Robert Victoria. Helped by veterans Patrick Pezoulas, Nathan Fine, Brandon Green, Alan Jones and Chris Tobiere, the Eagles went 14-4-2, outscored opponents 85-31 and finished third in the Far East Class A tournament.

Team of the quarter: Kadena girls soccer.

Program of the quarter: Besides soccer, Kadena baseball won the Okinawa Activities Council season series 3-2 over Kubasaki, while girls softball swept Kubasaki 5-0. The boys track team won the OAC district title, then scored 143 points and eight gold medals in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools meet. The only island titles Kadena failed to win were golf and girls track and field.

Most improved team/softball game of the quarter: Taegu American unseated two-time defending DODDS-Korea champ Seoul American for the league title. Taegu rallied from a 4-1 deficit to down the Falcons 10-4 on April 29 at Yongsan Garrison, giving the Warriors their school-best 10th victory of the season.

Most improved program: Kubasaki boys soccer went from sub-.500 in 2005 to 12-3-1 behind Monroy’s goal scoring and playmaking (9 assists). Meanwhile, the girls overcame the loss of six players with 10 or more goals to go 12-5-2 behind freshman newcomers Kara Koeneke (26 goals) and Natalie Monti (11 goals).

Soccer players of the quarter: Besides LaGrave and Monroy, Stefan Welch of Yokota led the region among boys with 32 assists while Seoul Foreign striker Remco Rademaker paced the Pacific with 34 goals. Best brother-sister duo: the Pierponts, Ronnie and Ashley, of International Christian-Pyongtaek, who combined for 53 goals.

Soccer match/shot of the quarter: Gina Bosworth could have won the Girls Class A championship match with a penalty kick in overtime but missed. She made the most of her second chance during the penalty-kick shootout as Osan American edged Robert D. Edgren 3-2 in May 19’s final on muddy, sloppy Penny Lake Field at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan.

Baseball player/play/game of the quarter: Senior first baseman and team captain Chris Kaneshiro batted .400 this season and hit his only home run when it mattered most: a two-run walk-off blast in the bottom of the seventh that rallied Kadena over Kubasaki 6-5, the Panthers’ third straight victory over the Dragons after opening the OAC season with two losses.

Softball player of the quarter: Freshman right-hander Ashley Smith served as an integral part of a Pusan American team that finished a school-best 8-7 in its final season (the school closes this month). Smith went 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA, allowing 36 hits and 50 walks while striking out 79 of 259 batters faced in 53 innings. At the plate, she batted .323 with 20 stolen bases. The 4.0 GPA student is president of Pusan American’s National Junior Honor Society.

Track and field athletes of the quarter: Having five athletes on one team who shine equally is rare. Kadena’s boys could claim such a group in sprinters Manuel Duran and Jeff Morton, distance runner Tim Nabonne, field specialist Marquis Newton and hurdles and discus star Eric Robinson. They regularly turned events such as the OAC district, Kanto Plain and Mike Petty Memorial meets into Panther runaways.

Best new event: Few things had so many people talking — and laughing — as much as the new “Throwers’ Relays” in the Mike Petty track meet on April 8 at Kubasaki. Discus throwers and shot putters banded together to see which ones could negotiate the 400-meter relay the fastest.

Morrison Christian Academy of Taiwan captured the boys’ and girls’ relays.

Spring Athlete of the Quarter nominees

x-Aaron Zendejas, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, boys soccer

x-David Hyun, senior, International Christian-Seoul, boys soccer

x-Dianne Abel, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, girls soccer

x-Alyssa Rodrigues, freshman, Robert D. Edgren, girls soccer

Jennifer Stolle, senior, American School In Japan, track and field

Ashley Pierpont, freshman, International Christian-Pyongtaek, girls soccer

Michael Yoon, junior, International Christian-Uijongbu, boys soccer

Darlene Black, senior, International Christian-Uijongbu, girls soccer

Chris Kaneshiro, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, baseball

Kara Davis, sophomore, Kadena, Okinawa, girls softball

Nathan LaGrave, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, boys soccer

Ted Awana, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, boys soccer

Kingsley McLeod, sophomore, Kadena, Okinawa, boys soccer

Jennifer Abel, junior, Kadena, Okinawa, girls soccer

Eric Robinson, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, track and field

Manuel Duran, junior, Kadena, Okinawa, track and field

Jeff Morton, junior, Kadena, Okinawa, track and field

Tim Nabonne, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, track and field

Marquis Newton, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, track and field

Chris Monroy, senior, Kubasaki, Okinawa, boys soccer

Kristi McNair, senior, Kubasaki, Okinawa, girls soccer

Ashley Melin, senior, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan, girls soccer

Lisa Murray, senior, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan, girls soccer

Carlos Albaladejo, junior, Osan American, South Korea, boys soccer

Ashley Smith, freshman, Pusan American, girls softball

Brandon Green, senior, Robert D. Edgren, Japan, boys soccer

Allen Chin, senior, Seoul American, boys soccer

Sarah Yance, junior, Seoul American, swimming

Kelli Cox, senior, Taegu American, girls softball

Lynnette Grant, senior, Taegu American, girls softball

Stefan Welch, junior, Yokota, Japan, boys soccer

Allora Bellanger, senior, Yokota, Japan, girls softball

Wonzie Gardner, senior, Yokota, Japan, track and field

x-automatically nominated as Most Valuable Player of DODDS-Pacific-sponsored Far East tournament.

author picture
Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now