CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Center-midfielder Carlos Fogarthy had tried six times, and on Wednesday he finally succeeded: His Marine Corps Base Camp Butler team finally earned the top seed and a first-round playoff bye in the Marine Forces Pacific Regional Soccer Tournament.

“Good stuff,” he said of the first seed, which gave Base Thursday off, while the other six teams jockeyed for semifinal berths.

While the rest would help Base recover from any bumps and bruises, Fogarthy said a tough road still lay ahead for his team.

“It’s a wide-open tournament,” he said. “The real thing starts tomorrow. At least we get to sit and rest and watch soccer. We’re looking forward to the day off, but we know we still have to play tough ball.”

Base finished round-robin play 5-1, tied with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, but Base earned the top slot based on its 2-1 victory over Wing on Monday.

That suited Wing player/coach Peter Burcheson fine; he didn’t want his team to sit out Thursday.

“It’s not an advantage,” he said of having a day off. “It makes you cold. It makes you flat. Sometimes, too much rest is a bad thing. I’d much rather be playing. We still have a chance to keep our game going. The more you play, the better your team plays.”

Hospital happy to participate

Coaches Sam Osuji and Christine Concepcion huddled in the bleachers, discussing lineups, strategies and tactics for their U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester team’s match Wednesday night with Iwakuni Air Station of Japan.

Quite ordinary stuff for any team in the Marine Forces Pacific Regional Soccer Tournament — except this is a team that hadn’t played in the tournament in four years and used to hold such meetings to figure out if there were enough players to field a team.

“We’re here to compete,” Concepcion said of a team that finished 2-4 in round-robin play and earned the sixth seed in the seven-team single-elimination playoff that began Thursday.

“We have a mix [of veterans] and beginners. We may not be at the same level as other teams. Sometimes, we can be,” Concepcion said.

Even if the corpsmen don’t win another tournament match, they’ve already made command and tournament history:

• Their 2-1 victory Monday over Marine Corps Base Camp Butler was the first for a hospital soccer team since it first entered Marine regional tournaments in 1993.

• They followed that on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over 3rd Marine Division/Expeditionary Force for a two-game winning streak — something no other hospital team ever has managed in any Marine regional, in any sport.

“What’s satisfying is nobody knew about the history,” Concepcion said.

They did know, however, that for four years, the hospital didn’t have enough players to field a team. That’s something Concepcion hopes the command has put behind it.

“We want to participate in as many games, tournaments and leagues as we can,” she said.

Even with the renewed emphasis on participation, that’s a tough call for a command that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Some guys are on night shift,” Concepcion said. “They’ll play, go back to work and not get off until 7 a.m.”

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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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