YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — For the first time since the tournament began in 1998, the Far East Girls Class AA soccer championship has left Okinawa.

Junior Ivie Myntti’s powerful right leg broke a scoreless deadlock in the 58th minute, and the American School in Japan defense held firm the rest of the way as the Mustangs dethroned defending champion Kubasaki 1-0 at Yokota’s Bonk Field.

Myntti’s long kick gave the Mustangs the title after Kubasaki won it 2002, 2003 and 2007 and Kadena in 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006. And it also sweetened the bitter memories of ASIJ’s 8-1 defeat at Kadena’s hands two seasons ago.

"Especially since this is my senior year," tournament MVP Morgan Bridgman said after ASIJ capped its best season in school history at 15-2-1. "It’s amazing that all the hard work paid off. It’s definitely an incredible feeling."

While the game was a disappointing end to the Dragons’ 13-7-3 campaign, coach Terry Chumley expressed pride in her charges.

"They worked to the last minute and did their best. I’m proud of them," Chumley said.

From the outset, the game evolved into a midfield standoff, with neither side getting many chances to make a run at the net in the opening 40 minutes.

ASIJ came closest to breaking the ice in the first half, when speedy freshman Birke Duerloo dashed toward net with the ball, but Dragons keeper Gabby Falco stopped the shot, then fullback Stephanie Salmon cleared it.

The thought of going to overtime "crossed our minds," Bridgman said; ASIJ reached the 2006 final by surviving Kubasaki in overtime and lost to Yokota in a 2007 quarterfinal in extra time.

"We’re glad we got it over with and didn’t have to put up with that pressure," Bridgman said.

That happened thanks to Myntti, who took a drop pass along the right baseline, hesitated as she surveyed the field, then launched a high, arcing shot toward Kubasaki’s net. It slithered over Falco’s fingers to the far post.

Myntti thought the shot had a "20 percent chance" of scoring.

"It was kind of a lucky shot. I thought it would go over [the net], a hope and a prayer that it would go in. When it did, I just screamed, ‘Oh, yes!’ "

Chumley praised both Myntti’s shooting skill and the play of Falco. "It was a great shot. You can’t fault her (Falco) at all. She’s played great for us all season."

A Kubasaki team that finished first last year and second this season loses just three seniors. "The future looks bright," Chumley said. "We’ll be back."

E-mail Dave Ornauer at:

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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.

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