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Never before Wednesday had Seoul American achieved the top seed entering the single-elimination playoffs of a Far East High School Girls Class AA Volleyball Tournament. Never before Wednesday had DODEA Pacific teams occupied the top two spots.

Yet as division play ended Wednesday and gave way to the playoffs beginning Thursday at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base, there they were, the Korea-champion Falcons and Japan-champion Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, at the top with the rest of the competition staring up at them.

“The bull’s-eye just got bigger,” coach Denny Hilgar said after his Falcons, led by junior spikers Destinee’ Harrison and Liz Gleaves, finished Gold Division play 6-2, a set better than Kinnick and Guam champion George Washington.

It was Seoul’s and Kinnick’s first time playing with what Hilgar described as the “big dogs.” Neither team had ever played higher than the Silver Division in the two-day divisional phase of the tournament.

The last DODEA Pacific team to win the Class AA tournament was Zama American in 1997; the Trojans have four titles to their credit.

The highest Seoul American has finished was second in 1984 and 1999; Kinnick’s best finish was fourth in 1983. Hilgar’s Falcons placed eighth last year and coach Al Garrido’s Red Devils seventh.

Eagles soar to first-round win in ‘wide open’ Class A tourney

Though four of five of Wednesday’s first-round playoff matches finished in straight-set wins in the Class A volleyball tournament at Camp Walker, South Korea, none of the double-elimination playoff matches were clear runaways.

Organizers and coaches call the nine-team tournament “wide open,” with one suggesting that as many as eight of the teams have a shot at capturing the title.

“There’s no one team dominating,” Robert D. Edgren coach Sarah Richardson said after her Eagles, paced by spikers Jessica Bergman and Da’Pree Davis swept E.J. King 25-21, 25-19, 25-16.

The Eagles, who don’t get many regular-season matches, seem to put things in gear soon after arriving for Class A, Richardson says. “When we get here, we get a lot of matches. And everything’s falling into place,” she said.

While Class A is “open for anybody to take,” Richardson said she sees her Eagles “rising to the challenge.”

Defending champions again reach finals in Far East Tennis

Thursday’s singles finals in the Far East Tennis Tournament featured four familiar faces – last year’s contestants.

Two-time champion Kyle Sprow of Kadena swept Daegu American’s Russell Midomaru 6-0, 6-1 to book his finals berth. Teammate Elliot Mason had a rougher go of it, but finally survived Seoul American’s Chong Lee 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Mason’s twin sister, defending champion and two-time Okinawa Activities Council champ Elissa Mason, and 2007 champion Kennedy Allen of Seoul American booked their finals return engagement.

Mason routed Kanto Plain champion Erika Youngdahl of Yokota 6-0, 6-1 and Allen dispatching Guam High’s Amber Gadsden 6-2, 6-1. Mason beat Allen 6-4, 6-2 in last year’s final.

Gary Cashman, Stephanie Mobley and Michelle Chandler contributed to this report.

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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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