Far East H.S. volleyball: Korea teams hopeful, but expect tough climb
Not since 1999 has Seoul American reached a Far East Girls Class AA Volleyball Tournament championship match. Not since 2001 has Osan American captured a Girls Class A title.
Coaches Denny Hilgar and Brian Swenty feel this week might be the Falcons’ and Cougars’ best chance to buck a long stretch of dominance by international schools.
The Falcons took a 12-3 record and the Cougars a 12-4 ledger into the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference tournament at Seoul American.
From there, the Falcons head to the Class AA tournament on Guam — where they reached that championship match in 1999 — while the Cougars play in a Class A tournament in Taegu, South Korea. Both events begin Monday; Class A ends Friday and Class AA on Saturday.
“I think back to that group I had in 1999,” Hilgar, the Falcons’ coach since 1980, said of a team that boasted the likes of 6-foot Tracie Harris.
His current group has two like her: Senior Avianca Manning (131 spike kills in 271 attempts, 39 block points) and sophomore Gabriella Matautia (91-220), fed by senior setter Kristina Queen (290 sets).
“Talent? Yes, we have talent,” Hilgar said.
His Falcons, Hilgar said, are in year three of what he calls a four-year developmental cycle: building the first year, growing the second, contending the third and back to building in the fourth.
“This is it for us. We don’t have much coming back next year,” he said.
Likewise, Swenty brings a wealth of experience — and quite a few underclassmen who will return — to the Class A table.
All-Far East returnees Celine Baldevia and Laura Vega, both juniors, have combined for 326 set assists in Swenty’s 6-2 alignment. They’re also accomplished at the net: Baldevia has 109 kills in 333 attempts and Vega 71 in 272, with 10 block points.
The addition of senior Olivia Dickinson, a Texas transfer (205-for-214 serving with 45 aces, 70 kills in 205 attempts) “has been great” at outside hitter, Swenty said. Nicole Sparks pitches in with 176 defense digs to complement Baldevia’s 107.
Yet with all that talent, Hilgar and Swenty know the hard work lies ahead. A good gauge, Hilgar noted, was how both teams fared in five combined matches against KAIAC champion Seoul Foreign — all but one of those, the Cougars and Falcons lost in straight sets.
It’s an indicator, both coaches said, of what they might face in their tournaments. International powers like Seoul Foreign have won the Class AA tournament all but five times in 31 years; only two DODDS teams have won Class A titles in the tournament’s 10-year history.
The Falcons finished fifth last year, but Hilgar said it’s a matter of how they fare against last year’s top four: American School In Japan, Christian Academy In Japan, George Washington and Academy of Our Lady of Guam.
Likewise, Swenty says his main opposition lies in last year’s top three: Morrison Christian Academy, Faith Academy and International School of the Sacred Heart.
“Our goal is to finish in the top three at Far East,” Swenty said. “We know we have the team. We know we have something special. I know we’ve got it. It’s just a question of how far we can take it.”
Far East High School Girls Class AA Volleyball TournamentDates-Nov. 5-10, 2007.
Sites-Guam High School, Nimitz Hill, and University of Guam Field House, Mangilao, Guam.
Host school-Guam High School.
Format-Pool play first day, 19 teams divided into three pools of five and one pool of four teams. Division play next two days for seeding in single-elimination tournament. First-place finishers in Monday’s play enter four-team Gold Division; second-place finishers enter four-team Silver Division; third-place finishers enter four-team Bronze Division; fourth- and fifth-place finishers enter seven-team Copper Division. Single-elimination tournament with consolation last three days.
Schedule of events-Opening ceremony 5 p.m. Sunday, Guam High School. Pool-play matches 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, University of Guam Field House and Guam High School. Division-play matches 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, University of Guam Field House, and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Guam High School. Single-elimination with consolation 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m., University of Guam Field House. Championship match 4 p.m. Saturday, University of Guam Field House. Closing ceremony 15 minutes after conclusion of championship match.
Participating teams-Pool A, George Washington Geckos, Mangilao, Guam; John F. Kennedy Islanders, Upper Tumon, Guam; Robert D. Edgren Eagles, Misawa Air Base, Japan; Christian Academy In Japan Knights, Tokyo. Pool B-Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan; Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan; Academy of Our Lady of Guam Panthers, Hagatna, Guam; St. John’s Knights, Tamuning, Guam. Pool C-American School In Japan Mustangs, Seisen International Phoenix, Tokyo; Southern Dolphins, Agat, Guam; Simon Sanchez Sharks, Yigo, Guam; Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa. Pool D-Hong Kong International Dragons, Hong Kong, China; Notre Dame Royals, Talofofo, Guam; Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea; Zama American Trojans, Camp Zama/Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan; Guam High Panthers, Nimitz Hill, Guam.
Returning DODDS-Pacific All-Far East players-Avianca Manning, Gabriella Matautia, Seoul American; Raelene Tajalle, Kubasaki (now playing for John F. Kennedy); Keily Sasano, Zama American.
Awards-Trophies to top eight teams. Most Valuable Player. Fourteen All-Tournament selections.
Far East High School Girls Class A Volleyball TournamentDates-Nov. 5-9, 2007.
Sites-Taegu American School, Camp George, and Kelly Fitness & Sports Center, Camp Walker, South Korea.
Host school-Taegu American School, Camp George, South Korea.
Format-Single round-robin, 12 teams split into six pools, first three days. Double-elimination playoffs last two days.
Schedule of events-Round-robin games 9 a.m. Monday-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, double-elimination playoffs 9 a.m. Thursday-5 p.m. Friday, “if necessary” match to follow, Taegu American School and Kelly Fitness & Sports Center. Closing ceremonies 15 minutes after championship match.
Participating teams-Osan American Cougars, Osan Air Base, South Korea; Taegu American Warriors, Camp George, South Korea; E.J. King Cobras, Sasebo Naval Base, Japan; Matthew C. Perry Samurai, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan; Morrison Christian Academy Mustangs, Taichung, Taiwan; Faith Academy Vanguards, Rizal, Philippines; International School of the Sacred Heart Symbas, Tokyo; Yongsan International-Seoul Guardians; Global Visions Christian School, Chungcheongbuk, South Korea; International Christian-Pyongtaek Eagles, Pyeongtaek, South Korea; Korea International Phoenix, Pangyo, South Korea; Kyoto International University Academy, Kyoto, Japan.
Returning DODDS-Pacific All-Far East players-Laura Vega, Celine Baldevia, Osan American.
Awards-Trophies to top three teams. Most Valuable Player, Best Hitter, Best Blocker, Best Server, Best Setter, Best Defender, 12 All-Tournament selections.