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For Michelle Chandler, it’s familiar territory. Very familiar.

Just like four seasons ago, Daegu American’s girls basketball team enters the 2009-10 season fresh off a victory in the Far East Class A Volleyball Tournament.

And just like four seasons ago, Chandler, beginning her 11th season at the Warriors’ helm, enters the campaign cautiously optimistic.

"I hope it carries over," Chandler said of the volleyball momentum, which translated in 2006 to the school’s first Class A basketball title. "It’s kind of early to say. I know they know mentally how to win. It’s the physical part. Volleyball isn’t basketball."

And not everything is quite like it was back in the heady 2005-06 season. Unlike then, Chandler said, the Warriors don’t have a do-everything superstar in Lynnette Grant, who virtually put the team on her back in each of those seasons.

"I haven’t had anybody step up and be a leader" in the mold of Grant, or senior guard Ashley Hawkins of Robert D. Edgren, who last February earned Class A tournament MVP honors on a second-place team.

In fact, Daegu’s girls volleyball team was supposed to be championship timber next fall; the core groups of both volleyball and basketball are juniors, with Kristina Bergman controlling the paint and Angie Robinet one of many guards returning to last year’s fifth-place Class A team.

By coincidence, the 2005-06 Class A champion team placed fifth in the 2005 tournament.

"We’ll see," Chandler said. "We have to prove it. We have a long way to go."

Daegu’s season, along with the rest of the Pacific, got under way in earnest this weekend with full game slates in Korea, Okinawa and Japan.

Edgren hopes it can conclude what it began when it just missed by four points in the Class A final, 41-37 against Osan American.

Hawkins returns, along with post player Jessica Bergman; Sabrina Cavazos transfers from Germany and will likely give Hawkins relief from those box-and-one zones last year.

"I can see they have the potential," Eagles coach Sarah Richardson said. "It’s getting the girls to believe in themselves."

On the Class AA front, coach Billy Ratcliff feels such issues are hardly a bother for a Seoul American team that just missed its third Far East title in five years, falling 50-47 to Faith Academy.

All five Falcons starters, including speedy Liz Gleaves and Destinee Harrison, a force in the paint, return. They’re bolstered by freshman point guard Deirdre Jones and junior transfer Larissa Arnold — Air Force Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold’s great-great-granddaughter.

"They look good," Ratcliff said. "I think we’re peaking a lot quicker. We have a lot more depth and a lot more speed."

Team capsulesClass AA

South Korea

Seoul American FalconsYongsan Garrison2008-09—31-2, 15-0 Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I (17-time defending champion), runner-up in Class AA the past two years.Coach—Billy Ratcliff, second season.Key returners—Liz Gleaves, Jr., G-F; Destinee Harrison, Jr., F; Diamond Person, Jr., F; Maria Garcia, Sr., G.Key newcomer—Larissa Arnold, Jr., F (transfer from Germany).Outlook—Contending, contending, contending. “We have all returning starters from (the 2009 Far East Class AA) championship game, more depth on varsity at all positions and believe we can compete for the banner if we stay healthy, eligible and are peaking as we hit the tournament,” Ratcliff says.

Okinawa

Kadena PanthersKadena Air Base2008-09—17-15, 4-6 vs. Japanese high schools, 4-0 vs. Kubasaki in Okinawa Activities Council season series; third in Far East Class AA tournament.Coach—Dewayne Pigge’, second season.Key returners—Desirae Seals, So., G; Anissa Fitz, Jr., F.Key newcomers—Bria Pressley, So., G; Jasmine Pressley, Jr., G; Maria Vaughan, Fr., G; Kelly Kaneshiro, So., G.Outlook—Rebuilding. Some skills, and the addition of the Pressley sisters and Vaughan’s shooting touch will help, but this group is far shorter on height and the experience of its predecessors.

Kubasaki DragonsCamp Foster2008-09—3-24, 0-9 vs. Japanese high schools, 0-4 vs. Kadena in OAC season series.Coach—Stephanie Davis, second season.Key returners—Gabby Falco, Sr., F; Shina Carter, Sr., G; Nicole Bossert (transfer from E.J. King), So., F-G.Key newcomers—Amber Overton, Fr., G; Athena Wilbon, So., F-G.Outlook—Rebuilding. New coach, new approach; Dragons got their first victories of the season at last week’s Hong Kong International School Holiday Tournament instead of late in the season. But it’s a young group and a lot of burden will rest on Falco’s shoulders, again.

Japan

Yokota PanthersYokota Air Base2008-09—20-8, 10-3 Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools (tied for second), 10-3 Japan Basketball League (third), 6th in Class AA tournament.Coach—Ricardo Cabral, eighth season.Key returners—Erika Ettl, So., G; Ayanna Thomas, So., G.Key newcomers—Khayla DeCaires, So., G, Julia Marrin, Jr., F, Shannon Jenkins, So., F (move-ups from junior varsity); Kathryn White, So., F, Sarah Hamner, Fr., C (transfers); Keahounani Jordan, Fr., all positions.Outlook—Rebuilding. The good news is Ettl, the daughter of boys coach Paul Ettl, remains at point guard and her game is developed. But much will depend on developing newcomers; inexperience abounds, again.

Nile C. Kinnick Red DevilsYokosuka Naval Base2008-09—19-9, 6-6 Kanto (fourth), 9-4 JBL (third), fifth in Class AA tournament.Coaches—Charles Boyer, Samuel Williams, first seasons.Key returners—Mary Niemeyer, Sr., F-G; Shannon Jackson, Jr., F-C.Key newcomers—Michelle Pinchart, Jr., post; Audrey Parker, Jr., G; Shannon Donegan, Jr., F.Outlook—Rebuilding. Just three upperclassmen. Niemeyer and Jackson will tote much of the burden while the team makes its transition from the style and philosophy of longtime coach Henry Falk to Boyer and Williams.

Zama American TrojansCamp Zama/Atsugi Naval Air Facility2008-09—21-9, 10-3 Kanto (tied for second), 10-2 JBL (champion), 12th in Class AA tournament.Coaches—Parish and Veronica Jones, seventh season.Key returner—Crystal Valentine, Sr., G.Outlook—Rebuilding. Four starters either transferred, graduated or chose to play other sports this school year.

Guam

Guam High PanthersAgana Heights 2009—5-8, with island playoffs yet to be played.Coach—Katrina Pieper, first season.Key returners—Carmina Sheaks, Sr., PF; Janessa Blas, Sr., PG (played for Guam’s U-18 national team); Christi Mendiola, So., G; Ashley Cosey, Jr., G.Key newcomers—Kara Guerrero, So., C; Sabrina Rivo, So., F; Reanne Acasio, Fr., C-F; Megan Speck, So., F-G; Lani Tougher, So., G.Outlook—Rebuilding/reloading. A rash of injuries caused a late-season slump after a 4-4 start. Guam’s season ends this month, with Far East scheduled for February, by which time the injuries will have healed and the Panthers can make a deep run in the Class AA Tournament.

Class ASouth Korea

Osan American CougarsOsan Air Base2008-09—21-5, 12-2 KAIAC Division I (second), defending Far East Class A Tournament champion.Coach—Bruce Barker, 15th season.Key returner—Ashley LaFortune, So., F.Outlook—The mother of all rebuilding jobs. From champions a year ago, the Cougars lost do-everything guard Celine Baldevia and the rest of the starting lineup and many backups.

Daegu American WarriorsCamp George2008-09—16-13, 7-5 KAIAC Division I (fourth).Coach—Michelle Chandler, 11th season.Key returners—Jamie Cheniault, Sr., F; Kristina Bergman, Jr., F; Angie Robinet, Jr., G; Chanel O’Neal, Sr., G; Alexis Parker, So, G.Outlook—Reloading/contending. Mostly players from last month’s Far East Girls Class A Volleyball Tournament champion team, so they know how to win; just a matter of how they can apply it to basketball.

Japan

E.J. King CobrasSasebo Naval Base2008-09—0-20, 0-11 JBL (sixth).Coach—Steven Casner, first season.Key returners—Darion Romero, Jr., C; Emily Cox, Jr., SF.Key newcomers—Tara Long, Fr., PG; Kenyata Handley, Sr., PF.Outlook—Rebuilding. Little experience returning, but the addition of Long will help as the Cobras try to bury the memories of a winless season with the team’s third coach in four seasons.

Matthew C. Perry SamuraiMarine Corps Air Station Iwakuni2008-09—2-11, 0-8 JBL (fifth).Coach—Kevin Peterson, second season.Key returner—Kelli Clark, So., C-F.Key newcomers—Kelsey Peterson, Sr., post; Brianna Harpe, Fr., post; Rebekah Harwell, So., SG.Outlook—Rebuilding. Some experience inside with Peterson and the Samurai have a shooting weapon in Harwell, but eight of the Samurai have never played ball before.

Robert D. Edgren EaglesMisawa Air Base2008-09—17-8, 5-6 JBL (fourth), Far East Class A tournament runner-up.Coach—Sarah Richardson, 20th season.Key performers—Jessica Bergman, Sr., F; Ashley Hawkins, Sr., F; Eurydice Williams, Sr., F; Brynnley Roth, Jr.; Xala Sledge, So.; Sabrina Cavazos, Jr., G (transfer from Germany); Jennifer Black, So., G (transfer from Yokota).Outlook—Contending. The memory of the heartbreaking Class A title-game loss to Osan still burns brightly, and the Eagles have the ability and experience to reach their fifth Far East Tournament championship game since 2000.

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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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