Far East H.S. volleyball: DODEA teams’ mental outlook has brought them more success
Stars and Stripes November 8, 2009
That used to be the province of international schools has changed the past four years, with DODEA Pacific schools winning three of the past four Far East high school girls Class A volleyball tournaments: Daegu American in 2005 and Osan American the past two years.
So it would irritate Daegu coach Joanna Wyche when her Warriors would board a bus for a weekend road trip for matches at Seoul American and Seoul Foreign, and her players would talk about how they would come away winless.
"How do you know you’re going to lose?" Wyche would ask her players.
"But coach, it’s Seoul American," they would reply.
That mentality, Wyche said, is the thing she’s tried most to change about a program that fell on hard times after 2005, but which went 11-3 in the just-completed regular season, good for second place in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference season and tournament.
"Psychologically, they’d already beaten themselves" against Seoul in years past, Wyche said. "I believe in the impossible, making things happen despite the odds. Regardless of what other teams have, they need to be confident in their ability and know what they have to do."
Compared to where they were the last two years, middle blocker Kristina Bergman, setters Tia Rosenstein, Gulee Kwon and Angie Robinet and the Warriors have exceeded all expectations, except those of Wyche. She believes that if better is possible, good is not enough.
"I’m always going to push for them to chase greater things," she said.
Riding that attitude, the Warriors enter this week’s Class A tournament favored to win for the second time in four years. The nine-team single round-robin and double-elimination playoff tournament runs through Friday at Daegu American School and Camp Walker’s Kelly Gym.
While five DODEA Pacific teams compete in Daegu, seven DODEA Pacific schools face up to a field of three Tokyo international schools, nine Guam public and private schools, and Faith Academy of the Philippines in the six-day Class AA event at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.
Seoul American took seventh and Nile C. Kinnick eighth in last year’s tournament and appear primed for even higher finishes this year, given that most of their players are veterans of the Class AA wars. Falcons coach Denny Hilgar agrees with Wyche on the cerebral aspect.
"It’s more mental than anything else," said Hilgar, in his 30th year at the Falcons’ helm. It’s understood, he says, that Seoul must run a gauntlet including Guam power George Washington and defending champion American School In Japan, among others, "and plug into that mentality."
The Falcons will try to scale the heights behind the play of junior hitters Liz Gleaves and Destinee’ Harrison, and setter Brittany Grandy.
Kinnick’s senior-laden squad is powered by three hard hitters, seniors Mary Niemeyer and Camille Kawamoto, junior Shannon Jackson and junior setter Marina Nakayama. They went 27-0 in the regular season, the Red Devils’ school-best third straight winning season.
They could have done better last year, Niemeyer said. "We had the talent. But the mental strength wasn’t there," she said.
"I think some of the girls feared the big hitters" last year in the Far Easttournament, Niemeyer said. "Now, they’ve matured a lot. I think we’re ready for the challenge. I know it’s going to be hard. W We have to work pretty hard. But if we put it all together, it can be done."
"The opportunity is there. The girls just have to grab it," Wyche said.
Class AADates: Nov. 9-14.Sites: Guam High School, Asan, and Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Center, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.Host school: Guam High School.Format: Pool play first day, 20 teams divided into five pools of four teams each. Division play next two days for seeding in single-elimination tournament. First-place finishers in Monday’s play enter five-team Gold Division; second-place finishers enter five-team Silver Division; third-place finishers enter five-team Bronze Division; fourth-place finishers enter five-team Copper Division. Single-elimination tournament with consolation last three days.Schedule: Opening ceremony 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Guam High School. Pool-play matches 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday, division-play matches 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and single-elimination with consolation matches 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Center and Guam High School. Semifinal matches start at 6 p.m. Friday, championship at match 4 p.m. Saturday, Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Center. Closing ceremony 15 minutes after championship match ends.Participating teams: Pool A, George Washington Geckos, Mangilao, Guam; American School In Japan, Tokyo; Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; Okkodo High School, Guam. Pool B-Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan; Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan; John F. Kennedy Islanders, Upper Tumon, Guam; Harvest Christian Academy Eagles, Barrigada, Guam. Pool C-Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa; Seisen International Phoenix, Tokyo; Notre Dame Royals, Talofofo, Guam; Southern High School, Santa Rita, Guam. Pool D-Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea; Christian Academy In Japan Knights, Tokyo; Simon Sanchez Sharks, Yigo, Guam; St. John’s Knights, Tamuning, Guam. Pool E-Faith Academy Vanguards, Rizal, Philippines; Zama American Trojans, Camp Zama/Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan; Academy of Our Lady of Guam Cougars, Hagatna, Guam; Guam High Panthers, Asan, Guam.Returning DODEA Pacific All-Far East players: Mary Niemeyer (two-time selection), Nile C. Kinnick; Liz Gleaves, Seoul American; Gabby Falco, Kubasaki.Awards: Trophies to top 10 teams, individual medals to players on top three teams, Most Valuable Player, 12 All-Tournament selections, Team Sportsmanship Award.
Class ADates: Nov. 9-13.Sites: Daegu American School, Camp George, and Kelly Fitness & Sports Center, Camp Walker, South Korea.Host school: Daegu American School, Camp George.Format: Single round-robin, nine teams in one pool, first two days. Double-elimination playoffs, all teams qualifying, last three days.Schedule: Round-robin games 8 a.m. Monday-9 p.m. Tuesday, double-elimination playoffs 8 a.m. Wednesday until championship match, slated for 2:30 p.m. Friday with an "if necessary" match to follow, Daegu American School and Kelly Fitness & Sports Center. Closing ceremonies 15 minutes after championship match.Participating teams: Osan American Cougars, Osan Air Base, South Korea; Daegu American Warriors, Camp George, South Korea; E.J. King Cobras, Sasebo Naval Base, Japan; Matthew C. Perry Samurai, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan; Robert D. Edgren Eagles, Misawa Air Base, Japan; Morrison Christian Academy Mustangs, Taichung, Taiwan; International School of the Sacred Heart Symbas, Tokyo; Yongsan International-Seoul Guardians; Global Visions Christian School, Chungcheongbuk, South Korea.Returning All-Far East players: Nicole Sparks (two-time selection, reigning two-time Best Defender), Osan American; Kristina Bergman (two-time selection, reigning Best Blocker), Daegu American; Jessica Bergman, Robert D. Edgren; Emma Valentine, Maya Dever Massion, International School of the Sacred Heart.Awards: Trophies to top three teams. Most Valuable Player, Best Hitter, Best Blocker, Best Server, Best Setter, Best Defender, 10 All-Tournament selections.