Far East Class A soccer preview: Osan girls aim to build on strong start
Stars and Stripes March 9, 2008
It was the best of times for the E.J. King boys soccer team. After going 4-25-2 in the past two seasons and being eliminated early from the Far East Class A tournament last May, the Cobras surprised many, even themselves, by capturing their first title.
It was the worst of times for Osan American’s girls. The most decorated in Class A tournament history (four titles), the Cougars’ bid for a Far East title three-peat was derailed last May by injuries and a lack of desire.
Now, with those most unlikely of seasons behind them, the Cobras and Cougars enter the 2008 season with Class A titles in their sights.
In addition to injuries, “some of our key players didn’t play like they were capable of” last season, Cougars coach Sung Plourde said. Gina Bosworth and Sasha Gluzinski were All-Far East selections in 2006, but fell off in 2007 as the team finished 8-15 and finished third in Class A.
“I had a long talk with the people coming back about how disappointed I was last year, and we had a better team than we showed. I think they’re better prepared this time,” Plourde said.
The Cougars won their first three matches of this season, including a 2-0 victory at Seoul Foreign, Osan’s first victory over Seoul Foreign in five years.
Injuries continue to dog the Cougars, but Plourde firmly believes they can get past them and keep their early run going.
Bosworth, Gluzinski and Christina Connolly remain the key holdovers from the 2006 title run, and Plourde feels the addition of junior goalkeeper Celine Baldevia and freshman striker Jasmine Pressley (five goals in three matches) will be huge.
Baldevia “knows what to expect. She’ll be one of the top goalkeepers” in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference this season, Plourde said.
Pressley brings sheer speed to the table. “That’s something you can’t coach,” Plourde said. “She is athletically gifted. She needs to polish up her shooting, her game. If she can put it together, she’ll be one of our key weapons.”
While the Cougars sport much weaponry, the Cobras boys will likely rely once again on defense, as they did last year.
“We were expecting a repeat of the past couple of years — win one or two matches, be out by the second day and shopping the rest of the time,” senior midfielder David Heitstuman said of past Class A tournaments.
“But we kept winning; we were amazed and definitely pleased.”
Injuries could have derailed the Cobras, but one player after another stepped in to fill voids, mainly in net, where Demond Dean ably replaced Phillip Zirion.
“All our wins were low-scoring games,” Heistuman said. “We got just enough goals to win, and the defense held on. We need to rely on strong defense [and E.J. King’s] might be stronger than it was last year.”
With no girls program at E.J. King, girls are permitted to be on the Cobras’ roster. This year, there are two, senior Samantha and freshman Nicole Bossert, whom Heitstuman says will be assets to the team. Samantha is ticketed to play at Delta State in Mississippi next fall.
“They have the understanding, technique, ball-handling of the game,” Heitstuman said.
“They’re always where they need to be. They’ll do an awesome job, I’m sure.”
Far East Class A soccer thumbnailsBoys
E.J. King CobrasSasebo Naval Base
2007 record: 9-9-3, defending Far East Class A Tournament champion.Coach: Michael Erickson, second season.Key returners: Jon-Jon Green, Jr., forward-midfielder (7 goals); Ricky Vance, Sr., forward; Alex McClintock, So., defense; David Heitstuman, Sr., defense-sweeper-stopper; Randy Rivera, Sr., right midfielder; Jeremy Ruelos, Jr., forward-midfielder (4 goals).Key newcomers: Samantha Bossert, Sr., defense; Nicole Bossert, Fr., midfielder; Blake Romero, Sr., defense; Stephen Cordero, So., midfielder-defense.Outlook: Contending at Class A. Seven returning starters, addition of speedy Romero and Bossert sisters (Samantha is signed to play for Delta State next year), leadership of Heitstuman, return of Phillip Zirion to the net after sitting out last season puts Cobras in position to contend again.Matthew C. Perry SamuraiMarine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
2007 record: 5-18-3.Coaches: Mark Lange, fifth season; Scott Sanders, first season.Key returners: Darren Cutshall, Sr., sweeper; Chris Lupton, Sr., forward; Scott Seitz, Sr., defense.Key newcomers: Brett Duncan, Fr.; Tyler Hendrson, Sr.; Craig Bell, Sr.; Jake Suenkel, Fr., goalkeeper.Outlook: Rebuilding, again. Very young team, only three players with varsity experience. But good athletes abound from other sports, and potential for development into a competitive team is good.South Korea
Daegu American WarriorsCamp George
2007 record: 3-11-2.Coach: Larry Knierim, third season.Key returners: Ben Beaulieux, Jr., fullback; Angel Hickman, Sr., wing; Daniel Garcia, Sr., fullback; Patrick Buehl, Jr., forward-midfielder; Phillip Cox, Jr., forward.Key newcomer: Evan Lobeto, Fr., midfielder.Outlook: Reloading. Good core of experienced veterans. “We’ll surprise some people this season,” Knierim said.Osan American CougarsOsan Air Base
2007 record: 9-7-5, third in Far East Class A Tournament.Coach: Duke Allen, first season.Key returners: Abel Saucedo, Sr., forward; Vincent DeJesus, Sr., fullback.Key newcomers: Derek Becker, Jr., center-midfielder (transferred in from Washington state); Eugene So, So., forward-midfielder (transferred from Seoul American); Jason Kong, Fr., wing; Kee Park, Fr., wing; John Sikes, Fr., midfielder.Outlook: Rebuilding. Only one returning starter. Becker being asked to fill the shoes of departed team heart-and-soul player Carlos Albaladejo. Several freshmen will earn starting positions. Nearly two-thirds of the team underclassmen.Girls
Matthew C. Perry SamuraiMarine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
2007 record: 8-11-1, second in Far East Class A Tournament.Coach: Christopher Anderson, fourth season.Key returners: Kate Cutshall, So., goalkeeper; Heather Hyson, So., center-midfielder (14 goals, 11 assists); Karla Stroud, Jr., forward (6 goals); Jane Curtis, Jr., defense; Lizzy Dover, Jr., defense.Key newcomers: Kristen Leikwold, Fr., forward; Ari Morcarski, Fr., sweeper.Outlook: Reloading-contending. Taylor Dunphy’s 20 goals will be hard to replace, but Stroud and Leikwold should bring plenty of firepower to the table. Hyson, Stroud and Cutshall, among others, more than motivated by last year’s 2-1 loss in overtime to Daegu American in Class A title match.South Korea
Daegu American WarriorsCamp George
2007 record: 12-7-1, defending Far East Class A Tournament champion.Coach: Ed Thompson, third season.Key returners: Kay Husler, Sr., center-midfielder; Linda Martinez, Jr., stopper; Agnes Choi, Jr., sweeper; Nikki Calisto, Jr., right forward; Morgan Calisto, Jr., left forward; Shawnqunisha Simpson, Sr., goalkeeper.Key newcomers: Angie Robinet, Fr., midfielder; Kristina Bergman, Fr., midfielder.Outlook: Rebuilding-reloading, but hoping to be competitive in Class A, in the same manner of a team that started last year slowly but caught fire at season’s end. Replacing Aimee Hildenbrand and Kat Nufable (graduated) and Sarah Eades (transferred to Seoul American) and their combined 40 goals.Osan American CougarsOsan Air Base