KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Yokota Panthers girls volleyball team matched the best Far East Class AA Tournament finish in school history, capping a remarkable turnaround for a team that finished near the bottom of the heap a year ago.
Led by senior outside hitter Shawna Vitarbo’s 10 spike kills, Yokota rallied from a 2-1 set deficit to down the American School In Japan 25-23, 24-26, 16-25, 25-18, 15-8 on Saturday in the tournament’s fifth-place match.
“Oh, my gosh. Can you believe it? They were awesome. This was awesome,” coach Bonnie Seeley said.
In the title match, Academy of Our Lady of Guam successfully defended its championship and extended its Pacific record to nine Class AA titles by beating island rival George Washington 25-18, 27-25, 13-25, 20-25, 15-13.
After finishing 15th the year before following a 7-11 regular season, the Panthers went 15-7 during the season and entered the tournament with a goal of finishing in the top eight.
“We surpassed that. We expected to finish eighth, but we got fifth,” Seeley said.
Yokota matched its fifth-place finish in 2001 at Camp Zama, Japan. That tournament was without Guam’s dominant public and private school teams because of security concerns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Panthers beat the Mustangs for the first time in three tries this season. Yokota had not beaten ASIJ since that 2001 campaign.
As in Friday’s consolation semifinal against Seoul American, the Panthers fell behind in the third set and appeared on their way to settling for sixth place.
Instead, Vitarbo’s hitting, along with the play of Andrevia Thomas (five kills, four defensive digs), fueled the rally.
“They were so pumped up that they won the fourth set, they kept the momentum and they didn’t stop until they won it,” Seeley said. “I’m so happy for them.”
Meanwhile, Seoul American fell to eighth place after taking a two-set lead on Southern of Guam, the 2002 champion and last year’s runner-up. The Dolphins rallied past the Falcons 22-25, 11-25, 25-13, 25-16, 15-6.
Christian Academy In Japan took third by beating Seisen International 25-19, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21 in an all-Tokyo battle.
Results and honors
Class AA girls volleyball
At Kadena Air Base, Okinawa
MVP—Emma Gillan, Academy of Our Lady.
All-Tournament team—Cassandra McFadden, Liana Borja, Academy of Our Lady; Nacrina San Nicolas, Saini Eseroma, Bernadette Bell, George Washington; Kelsey Masuda, Nanae Ohki, Ashley Ogawa, Christian Academy In Japan; Catherine Thornton, American School In Japan; Teresa Molina, Yuri Koshibe, Seisen International; Wella Comoda, Monica Naputi, Southern; Shawna Vitarbo, Yokota.
Yokota def. Seoul American 20-25, 25-16, 11-25, 25-21, 15-12
American School In Japan def. Southern 25-21, 19-25, 25-22, 25-16
Robert D. Edgren (11th place) def. Guam High (12th place) 22-25, 25-23, 25-19, 13-25, 15-11
Kadena (15th place) def. Zama American (16th place) 25-23, 17-25, 19-25, 25-11, 15-11
John F. Kennedy (13th place) def. Simon Sanchez (14th place) 24-26, 25-20, 25-19, 14-25, 15-10
Kubasaki (9th place) def. Nile C. Kinnick (10th place) 18-25, 25-21, 25-19, 20-25, 16-14
Academy of Our Lady def. Seisen International 25-20, 25-20, 25-21
George Washington def. Christian Academy In Japan 21-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 15-13
Southern (7th place) def. Seoul American (8th place) 22-25, 11-25, 25-13, 25-16, 15-6
Yokota (5th place) vs. American School In Japan (6th place) 25-23, 24-26, 16-25, 25-18, 15-8
Christian Academy In Japan (3rd place) def. Seisen International (4th place) 25-19, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21
Academy of Our Lady (champion) def. George Washington (2nd place) 25-18, 27-25, 13-25, 20-25, 15-13
Southern def. Seoul American, 22-25, 11-25, 25-13, 25-16, 15-6
Spike kills—Seoul, Sheriah Taua 6; Southern, Cherika Diego 4, Julianna Delos Reyes 4.
Yokota vs. American School In Japan, 25-23, 24-26, 16-25, 25-18, 15-8
Spike kills—Yokota, Shawna Vitarbo 10, Andrevia Thomas 5; ASIJ, Catherine Thornton 11, Adrienne Hughes 7, Nicole Thomas 6. Digs—Yokota, Andrevia Thomas 4.
Christian Academy In Japan def. Seisen Int., 25-19, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21
Spike kills—CAJ, Kelsey Masuda 14, Kelsey Hardeman 6, Nanae Ohki 5; Seisen, Yuri Koshibe 12, Karina Ikezoe 6, Teresa Molina 5. Service aces—Seisen, Yuri Koshibe 4. Block points—Seisen, Teresa Molina 4.
Class A girls volleyball
At Sasebo Naval Base, Japan
MVP—Nicole Tainatongo, Notre Dame.
Best hitter—Nicole Taintongo, Notre Dame.
Best server—Lindsey Jackson, Taegu American.
Best setter—Heather Craker, Morrison Christian Academy.
Best defender—Cassie Tumbado, E.J. King.
All-Tournament team—Nicole Tainatongo, Stephanie Taguacta, Dellene Lizama, Notre Dame; Mycal Horton, Pusan American; Heather Craker, Brandy Dickman, Morrison Christian Academy; Sarah Adams, Faith Academy; Lindsey Jackson, Taegu American; Kalin Lawrence, Fukuoka International; Margaret Nurse, Kara Baccus, Osan American; Cassie Tumbado, E.J. King.
Honorable mention—Cera Taguacta, Notre Dame; Ashley Kuhlow, Faith Academy; Erica Garrido, Morrison Christian Academy; Aimee Parker, Osan American; Aimee Brown, Pusan American; Ashley Gooch, Taegu American; Dayna Garland, Matthew C. Perry; Emi Saza, Fukuoka International; Carmie Cucueco, E.J. King.