(See team capsules at end of story)

Okinawa’s Kubasaki and Kadena soccer teams have won every Far East Class AA title since the tournament began in 1998. Yet the Panthers and Dragons boys and girls squads enter the 2005 campaign taking nothing for granted.

“Soccer is one of those sports where the best team doesn’t always win,” said Mike Callahan, coach of two-time boys champion Kadena. “You have to compete every day.”

A team that went 17-0-1 last season and outscored opponents 70-9 must plug holes in a defense decimated by graduation and transfers. Callahan said he hopes senior Devon Copeland can transition from midfield to the back line, helped by newcomers such as Kingsley McLeod.

“That’s been our focus ... working on the inexperienced defense,” said Callahan, who is taking over for Sue Fitzpatrick, who moved to Florida.

Kadena’s strongest challengers appear to be Kubasaki and Seoul American — each reached last year’s Final Four.

“We have a good core,” Dragons coach Butch Spain said of returning midfielder Chris Monroy and strikers Sean Harter and James Reyes. “But you have to get the core to work together. We’re not engraving the trophy yet.”

Similarly, despite having well-schooled veterans such as junior midfielder Allen Chin, Seoul American coach Steve Boyd said knocking Okinawa off its pedestal will be tough.

“It’s hard to compete with those guys. They are so superior,” he said. “You can tell that those kids have played so much soccer ... have played all year.”

In Okinawa’s warm climate, which is conducive to year-round soccer, several players play for and against Japanese club teams during the offseason. And many transfer to Okinawa from North Carolina, Virginia and California, “where soccer is big,” said Kubasaki girls coach Terry Chumley.

Playing team-possession ball has been the key to Okinawa’s years of success, she said.

“You have to build a team around the team, not just two or three of your best players. Everybody has to be involved and moving. Teamwork in soccer is essential ... the Okinawa teams demonstrate that.”

With senior Erin Foote (89 goals in three seasons) on the pitch, Chumley expects her Dragons will be in every game.

“She’s been ready since she was born,” Chumley said of Foote, who’s to play for Winthrop University in the fall.

At Kadena, coach Hoa Nguyen would insist that “it’s rebuilding time” for the defending Girls Class AA champion Panthers. Other coaches argue that with 44 goals between junior striker Dianne Abel and sophomore sister Jennifer, the Panthers remain a force in Class AA.

“We always have continuity,” Nguyen said of a team with four starters and seven players returning. Three of last year’s key starters — goalkeeper Theresa Gittens, left wing Katie LaGrave and sweeper Kim Lyle — have graduated.

Junior Liz Cotto will inherit the net, while junior Niki Kauzlarich and freshman Helen Schrock take over for LaGrave.

Class AA soccer capsules

(Click here to jump ahead to girls preview)


Kadena Panthers

Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

2004 record: 17-0-1, two-time defending Far East champions.

Coach: Mike Callahan, third season; Johnny Reay, first season.

Returning: Aaron Zendejas, So., midfield-forward (All-Far East, 16 goals, 7 assists); Nathan LaGrave, Jr., center-midfield (reigning Class AA MVP, 12 goals, 7 assists); Brenden Stanford, Sr., midfield (8 goals, 3 assists); Anthony Soroka, Jr., midfield-forward (10 goals, 1 assist); Devon Copeland, Sr., midfield-defense; Ted Awana, Jr., goalkeeper).

Newcomers: Kinglsey McLeod, Fr., midfield; Ben Zendejas, Fr., defense.

Projected status: Contending, as long as they can replace graduated and transferred defensive stand-outs with Copeland and freshmen. McLeod is projected to have immediate impact.

Kubasaki Dragons

Camp Foster, Okinawa

2004 record: 11-15-1, Far East runner-up.

Coach: Julian “Butch” Spain, third season.

Returning: Daniel Ritter, Sr., fullback; Vincent Hobbs, Sr., wing; Edwin Fastnacht, Sr., fullback; David Motu, So., goalkeeper; Sean Harter, Sr., forward (All-Far East, 9 goals, 4 assists); James Reyes, Jr., forward (11 goals, 3 assists); Chris Monroy, Jr., midfield (12 goals, 1 assist); Eric Isley, Jr., halfback.

Status: Contending. Even without last year’s core of six now graduated, enough talent returns for another championship-match run.

Seoul American Falcons

Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

2004 record: 13-7-2.

Coach: Steve Boyd, fourth season (took last year off).

Returning: Allen Chin, Jr., center-midfield (All-Far East, 7 goals, 2 assists); Phillippe Anglade, Sr., wing (6 goals, 2 assists); Sam Crothers, Sr., forward (All-Far East, 8 goals, 5 assists); Eugene Song, So., goalkeeper; Scott Tunis, Sr., sweeper; Andrew Kim, Sr.; Thomas Kim, Sr.; Woong Lee, Sr.; Jesse Suh, So.

Newcomer: Zeth Current, So. (transfer from RAF Alconbury, England).

Status: Contending. A wealth of experience, speed and players who live the game. Perhaps the closest challenger to the Okinawa title juggernaut.

Zama American Trojans

Camp Zama, Japan

2004 record: 9-13-2

Coach: Mike Napoli, first season.

Returning: 12 total, including captains David Burnett and David Vest (8 goals, 6 assists), Srs., center-midfield.

Status: Reloading. Replacing Kevin Casey’s 20 goals and center-back inspirational leader Jon Gilgenast will be a chore.

Yokota Panthers

Yokota Air Base, Japan

2004 record: 15-5

Coach: Tim Pujol, fourth season.

Returning: Stefan Welch, So., center-midfield (9 goals, 12 assists); Bronson Bailey, Jr., midfield-forward (4 goals, 4 assists); Jamal McNeill, Sr., sweeper.

Newcomers: Justin Hudson, So., goalkeeper; Jonathan Bernardo, Fr., defense; Kenta Takahashi, Fr., forward; Ricky Byrnes, Fr., midfielder.

Status: Rebuilding-reloading. Welch was born to play the game, Bailey can be dangerous and Pujol’s newcomers will have immediate impact. But somebody has to step up and fill the shoes of departed finisher Akira “A.J.” Host (25 goals, 8 assists).

Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils

Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan

2004 record: 15-7-3

Coach: Bill Schofield, third season.

Returning: Yamato Cibulka, Jr., goalkeeper-defense; Jonathan Evans, Jr., midfield (3 goals, 4 assists); Joey Wood, Sr., midfield (2 goals, 6 assists); Trey Davis, Sr., midfield (5 goals, 3 assists); Koji Silk, Jr., midfield; Mike France, Jr., defense-forward.

Newcomers: Jack Harms, Jr., forward-midfield-defense; Daniel Appleman, So., midfield-defense.

Status: Rebuilding. Plenty of veterans left, but Schofield has to find soemone to score — George Murray (24 goals, 5 assists) and Ken Cardwell (18 goals, 8 assists) departed as did sweeper and team leader Richie Korth (8 goals, 2 assists).

Robert D. Edgren Eagles

Misawa Air Base, Japan

2004 record: 6-14-5

Coach: Jim Burgeson, second season.

Returning: Patrick Pezoulas, Jr., forward (6 goals), Brandon Green, Jr., midfielder (returning from broken leg suffered last season); Jeff Fotakis, Sr., forward (8 goals); Terry Ashton, Sr., defense; Andrew Radloff, Sr., goalkeeper.

Newcomer: Chris Tobier, Fr., defense.

Status: Rebuilding-reloading. Replacing goalkeeper Chris Reinke and finisher Daniel Sanchez, both transfers, will be a task.


Kadena Panthers

Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

2004 record: 21-0-0, defending Far East champions.

Coach: Hoa Nguyen, seventh season.

Returning: Dianne Abel, Jr., midfield-forward (reigning Class AA MVP, region-leading 34 goals, 19 assists); Jennifer Abel, So., striker (10 goals, 10 assists); Sara Ragland, senior, center-midfield; Ashley Park, Sr., fullback; Niki Kauzlarich, Jr., forward (6 goals, 4 assists); Lauren Finfrock, Sr.; Alicia Larson, Sr.; Elizabeth Cotto, Jr., goalkeeper.

Newcomers: Midori Stanford, Fr.; Helen Schrock, Fr.; Victoria Lyle, Fr.; Kelsey Decker, Fr.

Status: Contending, even if Nguyen insists the team is rebuilding. With the Abels on the field, the Panthers are in every match.

Kubasaki Dragons

Camp Foster, Okinawa

2004 record: 10-5, Far East runner-up.

Coach: Terry Chumley, fourth season.

Returning: Erin Foote, Sr., striker (three-time All-Far East, 25 goals, 89 in three seasons); Kimi Cece, So., center-midfield (All-Far East); Levinia Tyrrell, Sr., striker (5 goals, 1 assist); Kristi McNair, Jr., defense; Kady Wolf, Sr., defense; Melissa Ramos, Jr.; Sarah Rhodes, So.

Status: Reloading-contending. With Foote on the pitch, Kubasaki’s in every match.

Seoul American Falcons

Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

2004 record: 17-4-3, fourth in Far East.

Coach: Lori Cannon, fifth season.

Returning: Amy Bakameyer, Sr., midfield-forward (All-Far East, 25 goals, 4 assists); Ramie Gibson, Sr.; Emily Bond, Sr., goalkeeper; Alysia Lavender, Sr., forward; Colleen McNulty, Sr.; Margaret Nurse, Jr. (transfer from Osan American); Ariana Farulla, Jr. (transfer from Osan American); Angye Law, Fr. (transfer from Pusan American).

Status: Perennial Final Four at Far East, strong contender for Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference title.

Yokota Panthers

Yokota Air Base, Japan

2004 record: 5-9

Coach: Matt Whipple, first season.

Returning: Bridget Dean, So., forward-midfield (10 goals, 2 assists); Brett Wagner, Sr., midfield (All-Far East, 4 goals, 3 assists); Shawna Vitarbo, Sr., forward (All-Far East); Jonica Childress, Sr., forward; Kathryn Huffmyer, Sr., midfield; Katrina Cristobal, Sr., midfield; Rachel Wright, Sr., midfield.

Newcomers: Brittney Fisher, Fr., goalkeeper; Desirae Colbert, So., defense; Gregoria Johnson, Fr., forward.

Status: Contending, at least for a Japan Soccer League and Kanto title and perhaps a Class AA Final Four berth. Only goalkeeper Erika Fisher graduated, and the younger Fisher is projected to be an impact replacement. Could better the team’s best-ever finish of 10-7-1 in 2003.

Robert D. Edgren Eagles

Misawa Air Base, Japan

2004 record: 8-5-1.

Coach: Joe Bryan, first season.

Returning: Jessica Allibone, Sr., forward (All-Far East, 15 goals, 2 assists); Stephanie Patrick, Jr., midfield-forward (15 goals, 6 assists); Samantha Johnson, Sr., forward; Rachel Weckhorst, Sr., goalkeeper; Brittany Kers, Sr.; Rachel Carson, Sr.; Johanna Six, Jr.; Elizabeth Reems, Sr.

Newcomers: Jade Thrasher, Fr.; Brittany Patrick, Fr.

Status: Contending. Yokota looms as the JSL favorite, but the Eagles could make noise with their 1-2 Patrick-Allibone punch.

Zama American Trojans

Camp Zama, Japan

2004 record: 5-9-1.

Coach: Victor Rivera, first season.

Returning: 15 total, including seniors LeeAndra Howard, Jenny Perkins, Jheana Poblete and JaQuita Doakes. Also, Elli Legaspi, Jr., midfield-forward (9 goals, 1 assist).

Status: Rebuilding-reloading. Good core of veterans maybe a step or two below the level of the Eagles and Panthers.

Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils

Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan

2004 record: 18-1-1, third in Far East.

Coach: Nicolas Hindie, third season.

Returning: Lisa Murray, junior, midfield (4 goals, 6 assists); Frances Zukowski, So., midfield (4 goals, 2 assists); Mariko Wood, So., forward; Ashley Melin, Jr., forward-midfield (2 goals, 6 assists); Sara McAlpin, Jr., forward; Lualhati Johnson, Jr., defense.

Newcomers: Erica Niemeyer, Jr., goalkeeper; Stephanie Barrett, Fr., midfield-forward; Sarah Greenert, Jr., defense.

Status: Rebuilding. Strong in the middle, but Hindie must replace the scoring of graduated Alexis Zukowski (20 goals, 10 assists) and Robyn Hopp (14 goals, 3 assists), goalkeeper Carol Tully and the entire defensive back line.

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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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