Far East Class AA soccer preview: Kubasaki boys, girls retool for another run at titles
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Between them, Kubasaki High School’s soccer teams lost three strikers who combined for 46 goals and two defensive standouts, three to graduation, two to transfer.
But don’t call the Dragons’ soccer teams the dreaded r-word.
"Rebuilding" has never been in the vocabulary of a Kubasaki program that has garnered a combined six Far East Class AA titles. Boys coach Chris Kelly and girls coach Terry Chumley insist that this year’s teams are no exception.
"I have a good solid core back that will give us a chance to contend, and that’s all a coach can ask for," Kelly said.
Kelly’s boys won the Class AA title last year, blanking Christian Academy In Japan 1-0 on a "golden goal" in the second five-minute sudden-death overtime last May at Kadena High School.
Kelly brings back three-year starters Rimar West and Mitch Shibley, plus the core of his midfield and defense and enough new parts to replace departed defenders David Krievs and Class AA MVP Jacob Hess (transfer) and Colton Sadler (graduation).
"As big as they get. Key pieces of our team. I’d love to have those guys back," Kelly said. "But I have people here from last year who will step in for us. It’s up to me to reassess, reevaluate and get them going in the right direction. That’s the life of a coach."
Also part of a coach’s life is getting a team to pick up the pieces after a heartbreaking defeat, recovering from the loss of scoring firepower and getting the team back on track.
That’s Chumley’s lot, after the Dragons girls fell 1-0 to American School In Japan last year — the first time in the tournament’s 10 years that the championship was won by a team not from Okinawa. Kubasaki had won the title the year before.
"I’m sure they’ll be pumped to try to get back to the big game," Chumley said.
Like Kelly, who lost a 21-goal scorer in Hess, Chumley waved farewell to graduated Bridget Ramirez (14 goals) and Jessica Osborne (11). But she also retains the same sort of senior leadership — in three-year midfielders Rina Ihu and Sara Harter.
"Our midfield is very deep with experience," Chumley said. "I think we’ll be competitive."
Of Ihu and Harter, Chumley said, "They’re definitely leading our team."
Several underclassmen have transferred in and will be at Kubasaki until they graduate, both coaches said. Among them are Nicole Bossert, a sophomore midfielder who started for E.J. King’s boys team, and Jordan Beard, a sophomore fullback who’ll replace Sadler.
"We have some new kids who will work nicely," Chumley said.
"He’s a really good fit, a big, solid defender to fill Colton’s shoes," Kelly said of Beard.
What they’ll find standing in the way on the road to the title are several title-worthy programs:
Island-rival Kadena returns plenty of scoring firepower in junior Stan Schrock (32 goals) and senior Cassie McDonald (30). Coaches for each team say they’re feeling no pressure with Kubasaki in the role of favorite. "We’re underdogs," girls coach Hoa Nguyen said. "Fine with me," boys coach Tom McKinney said.The team Kelly’s heroes vanquished last May, CAJ, brings back all but four graduates, with Kanto Plain career goals leader Leo Kobayashi (82) back for his senior season.Zama American’s girls also figure to be in the mix, with the Ashliman sister tandem of junior Aubrey (58 goals) and sophomore Mallarie (43) joining transfers Taylor Russell from Kadena and Katie Scully from Hawaii.Play begins in earnest in all areas this weekend, and Kelly and Chumley said they were optimistic about the task to come and the players they have to do the job.
"They have a passion for the sport. It shows on the field. It makes it a joy for me," Kelly said. "I think we’ll have fun this year."
Class AA boys capsulesJapan
Yokota PanthersYokota Air Base2008 record-21-5, DODDS-Japan Soccer League champion, fifth in Class AA.Coach-Jason Leonardis, first season.Key returners-Tony Presnell, Sr. midfielder (18 goals, 6 assists); Trey Sauls, Sr., goalkeeper; Chris Cournoyer, Sr., defender; Jimmy Niescier, Jr., midfielder (10 goals, 14 assists); Patrick Tubalado, Jr., midfielder (5 goals).Key newcomers-Chris Klein, Sr., midfielder/forward (transfer from Florida, Olympic Development Program in Europe); Omar Yuksel, Sr., forward (transfer from England); Keegan Ryan, Jr., defender; Gabe Huizar, So., defender.Outlook-Rebuilding. Coaching change means an adjustment to a new philosophy and style, but hope is there that the Panthers will compete at least in the DODDS-Japan Soccer League and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools.
Nile C. Kinnick Red DevilsYokosuka Naval Base2008 record-5-17-5, 12th in Class AA.Coach-Shane Hernandez, third season.Key returners-Collin Garroutte, Jr., midfielder; Devery Williams, Jr., forward; Seth Bell, Jr., goalkeeper; Lyle Bacaltos, Sr., defender; Jay Pothula, Jr., midfielder; Chris Del Toro, So., midfield; Ryutaro Matsushita, Sr., defender; Kyle Wessels, Sr., defender.Key newcomers-David Krievs, Sr., midfielder (transfer from Kubasaki), John Bogen, Jr., forward (transfer from E.J. King), Jess Arnold, Jr., defender; Marcus Boehler, Fr., forward; Robert Johnson, So., midfielder.Outlook-Rebuilding. Will be solid defensively; production up front may be a question mark, although the additions of Krievs and Bogen will help.
Zama American TrojansCamp Zama/Naval Air Facility Atsugi2008 record-15-9, seventh in Class AA.Coach-Lisa DesJardins, first season.Key returners-Daniel Dulay, Sr., goalkeeper-defender; Spenser Clark, Sr., forward-midfielder (9 goals); Brittin Southard, Sr., forward (7 goals, 7 assists); Tyler Myers, So., forward-midfielder (13 goals); Zach Woods, Jr., center-midfielder-forward (13 goals); Austin Woods, Jr., goalkeeper-defender..Key newcomers-Michael Spencer, So., sweeper-offense; Malachi Cruz, So., midfielder-offense; Adonis Jackson, Sr., wing; Josiah Morgan, Fr., midfielder-sweeper; Desmond West, Sr., midfielder-defender; Patrick Fong, So., forward-wing.Outlook-Reloading/contending. Good mix of returning veterans and key newcomers to build a solid, competitive team.
Kubasaki DragonsCamp Foster2008 record-12-10, Class AA champion.Coach-Chris Kelly, fourth season.Key returners-Rimar West, Sr., forward (11 goals); Mitch Shibley, Sr., forward (9 goals); Eddie Balfour, Sr., midfielder; Cody Sadler, Sr., midfielder; Jared Knox, Sr., defender-midfielder; Leo Muro, So., midfielder; Zach Stallings, Jr., midfielder; David Osborne, Jr., midfielder-defender; .Key newcomer-Jordan Beard, So., fullback.Outlook-Contending. As experienced a group as Kelly has ever had. Beard slides into key defensive spot vacated by graduated Colton Sadler. David Krievs and Jacob Hess (21 goals) are gone, but Dragons still competitive, both on island and at Class AA.
Kadena PanthersKadena Air Base2008 record-17-8-1, third in Class AA.Coach-Tom McKinney, third season.Key returners-Stanley Schrock, Jr., forward (32 goals); Patrick Reynolds, Sr., forward (15 goals); Aaron Ahner, So., midfielder-defender.Key newcomers-Sean Williams, Jr. (reigning Okinawa Activities Council district golf champion).Outlook-Contending. Enough veterans and firepower return, McKinney as always will rely on contributions from athletes who play other sports and instill the belief that a banner is always possible.
Seoul American FalconsYongsan Garrison2008 record-10-5-3, sixth in Class AA.Coach-Billy Ratcliff, first season (transfer from Vilseck, Germany).Key returners-Charles Mills, So., fullback; Joe Han, Sr., midfielder; Matt Nutter, Jr., forward.Key newcomer-John Clark, Sr., midfielder (transfer from Würzburg, Germany, Olympic Development Program veteran).Outlook-Rebuilding. Similar situation to Yokota and Zama with first-year coaches, new philosophy and style. Ratcliff fields a young but skilled team.
Class AA girls capsulesJapan
Yokota PanthersYokota Air Base2008 record-15-4-3, fifth in Class AA.Coach-Matthew Whipple, sixth season.Key returners-Suzie Sundberg, Sr., midfielder (4 goals); Emily Evans, Jr., midfielder (4 assists); Yasmina Yeager, So., midfielder.Key newcomers-Mia Angelella, Sr., midfielder (transfer from Robert D. Edgren); Shannon Lowder, Jr., forward.Outlook-Reloading. Whipple fields a young squad; out of 22 players, 15 are underclassmen, though his numbers are augmented by several skilled, promising freshmen.
Nile C. Kinnick Red DevilsYokosuka Naval Base2008 record-9-8-4, ninth in Class AA.Coach-Nicolas Hindie, seventh season.Key returners-Chelsea Keolanui-Wilson, Sr., midfielder; Nadine Mulvany, Sr., defender; Brittany Evans, Jr., midfielder-forward (17 goals, 6 assists); Mary Niemeyer, Jr., midfielder-defender; Vicky Hollingshead, So., goalkeeper; Audrey Parker, So., forward (8 goals); Jillian Parker, So., defender.Key newcomers-Marie Connor, Sr., forward-goalkeeper (transfer from Virginia); Meghan Pomeroy, Fr., midfielder (transfer from Hawaii); Celica Levy, Fr., defender (transfer from San Diego).Outlook-Rebuilding. Twelve of Hindie’s players are freshmen or sophomores, though the scoring of Evans and defensive presence of Mulvany give the Red Devils promise.
Zama American TrojansCamp Zama/Naval Air Facility Atsugi2008 record-19-5-1, DODDS-Japan and Kanto Plain champion, sixth in Class AA.Coach-Rogers Pitts, first season.Key returners-Aubrey Ashliman, Jr., forward (Japan-record 50 goals in 2007, sat out most of last season with a torn knee ligament); Mallarie Ashliman, So., forward (43 goals); Kristen Dulay, Jr., midfielder; Yuri Fisher, So., forward (6 goals); Eris Pitts, So., forward; Deanna Polaski, So., goalkeeper.Key newcomers-Taylor Russell, Jr., midfielder (transfer from Kadena, 11 goals, 11 assists last season); Katie Scully, So., sweeper-stopper (transfer from Hawaii).Outlook-Contending. Team of experienced yet young veterans must adjust to new coaching style. Plenty of talent here to make another DODDS-Japan and Kanto Plain championship charge, perhaps a deep Class AA title run.
Kubasaki DragonsCamp Foster2008 record-13-7-3, Class AA runner-up.Coach-Terry Chumley, eighth season.Key returners-Rina Ihu, Jr., midfielder (7 goals); Sara Harter, Jr., midfielder (9 goals); Cait Frandsen, Sr., defender-midfielder; Maya Lowe, So., midfielder-forward; Gabby Falco, Jr., goalkeeper; Chelsea Bligh, So., defender.Key newcomer-Nicole Bossert, So., midfielder (started for E.J. King’s boys team last season); Sydnie Bligh, Fr., defender.Outlook-Contending. While much must be replaced, particularly the scoring of Bridget Ramirez and Jessica Osborne (combined 25 goals), plenty of weapons remain for a run at a fourth Class AA title.
Kadena PanthersKadena Air Base2008 record-18-9-2, third in Class AA.Coach-Hoa Nguyen, 11th season.Key returners-Cassie McDonald, Sr., forward (30 goals, 7 assists); Ashley Zapp, Jr., midfielder; Tyler Arrieta, Jr., midfielder; Britney Wise, Jr., midfielder; Destinee Ancog, Jr., midfielder.Key newcomers-Shari Moss, Jr. (transfer from Yokota); Stephanie Mobley, Fr. and Kristie Kariban, freshman (played in island’s developmental U-14 Diplomats program); Monica Hayward, Fr.; Madeline Velasquez, Fr.Outlook-Rebuilding. This is as young a team as Nguyen has had since taking fourth in Class AA in 2003, but the addition of Moss, Mobley and Kariban and ensuring Wise stays until the end of the season will help the Panthers be competitive.
Seoul American FalconsYongsan Garrison2008 record-19-2-2.Coach-Robert Victoria, first season (previously coached boys teams at Seoul American, Edgren and E.J. King.Key returners-Liz Gleaves., So., goalkeeper; Alicia Furner, Sr., midfielder (8 goals); B.J. Grandy, Jr., defender-midfielder; Kelly Gutierrez, Sr., midfielder; Lee Ann Schade, Jr., defender-midfielder; Sarah Schade, Sr., defender; Coco Stephens, Sr., defender.Key newcomers-Micaela Crabtree, Fr., midfielder; Sarah Wolfgang, Fr., midfielder; Emma Erlandsson, Sr., forward.Outlook-Rebuilding. Much to replace, starting with the combined 64 goals scored by Sarah Eades (transfer), Katie Bolander (transfer) and Erica Anglade (graduated), but enough pieces remain for a competitive season.