For the past two seasons, Edgren volleyball coach Sarah Richardson had it good.

She had strong hitters and middle blockers, an experienced setter and a solid supporting cast as her Eagles placed seventh and 11th in the Far East Class AA tournaments — the school’s best stretch over two seasons.

But graduation removed three vital cogs, and the transfer plane took away two seniors she’d been counting on.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Richardson, who’s seen it happen repeatedly in her 16 years at Edgren. “You work so hard to build your program and as soon as you get it where you want it, [players] PCS and somebody else reaps the benefit of your work.”

Such are among the challenges of trying to fashion a Class AA or Class A tournament title contender. Players come and go every two or three years, or less in South Korea. Coaching posts sometimes resemble revolving doors.

“Developing a junior varsity is tough because of the turnover,” said Denny Hilgar, Seoul American Falcons coach.

And these come-and-go programs must compete with international-school powers such as the American School In Japan (three Class AA titles), Seisen International (three Class AA titles, one Class A title) and public and private schools from Guam, which own 14 crowns.

Players at those schools tend to stay far longer and volleyball is held in high regard on Guam.

Those schools’ teams are powers “because their kids aren’t going anywhere and they know the system,” Richardson said, while at a DODDS-Pacific school, “you’re always rebuilding.”

The problem worsens in Korea, where most accompanied tours last two years.

“In Okinawa and Japan, they at least have the luxury of keeping them for three years,” said Osan coach Brian Swenty.

With teams constantly “regrouping,” his label for rebuilding, “it is almost impossible to compete with many of the international schools,” Swenty said.

Transient teams battle those odds, in part, through constant tryouts.

“Look to get quality kids with good work ethic and some longevity … and work with them,” Hilgar said. “You are never not planning and practicing for the next year.”

Hilgar also stresses the importance of working with players informally during the offseason to develop the chemistry a team needs in a sport that demands it more than others.

“Any program worth its salt is not going to be very consistent if they just do an August-to-November type of program,” he said.

Playing international-school or Guam public- and private-school teams is a good gauge of a team, said Zama’s Dennis Decker: “If you do really well against them at midseason, you know you’ll do really well at Far East.”

Occasionally, Zama or Osan snares a championship or a Kadena of Okinawa reaches the Class AA final four, as in 2003.

“Doing what we do with what we have makes those placements extra special,” Hilgar said.

Volleyball team previewsClass AA


Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa, ninth in Far East last year. Coach Terry Chumley takes on another rebuilding-reloading project. Two starters return — sophomore setter Raelene Tajalle and senior hitter Kristi McNair. Senior middle blocker Alex Fernandez gives team a big boost, transferring from California.

Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, 15th in Far East. Coach Jim Lewis has loads of returning veterans — senior hitters Bailey Paschal, Alicia Larson and Erika Kerr, senior setter Rossini Alba and sophomore Helen Schrock. Junior hitter Zori Drew transfers from Edgren. Unlikely to repeat its Far East Final Four season of 2003.


Zama American Trojans, Camp Zama, 16th in Far East. Senior Amber Wilder and her junior sister Whitney anchor a good core of veterans that included Kate Shicks and Jamie Lee. Sophomore Keily Sasano, whose mother was an All-Far East player in the 1970s, is also back. Still a lot of building for coach Dennis Decker.

Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, fifth in Far East. Coach Troy Oliver resumes the helm after a year of handling the JV. Only one starter back from the school’s best-ever Far East finish — senior hitter Shiori Kaneko. Junior hitters Jasmine Spruill and Allora Bellinger move into the lineup, along with transfers Melissa Dixon (Turkey), Dianne Callaway (Alaska) and Stephanie Dolby (Zama). Good group, but a long drop from last year.

Robert D. Edgren Eagles, Misawa Air Base, 11th in Far East. Another rebuilding job for 16-year coach Sarah Richardson, who lost six from 2004. Seniors Veronica and Valerie Jones and Amanda Cheshire must do the heavy lifting for this group.

Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, Yokosuka Naval Base, 10th in Far East. Third coach in three years, Shane Hernandez takes over a squad that lost hitter Katie Wilkinson (transfer) but returns key cogs in senior hitter Erica Niemeyer and junior setter Mariko Wood.

South Korea

Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, seventh in Far East. The dean of Far East volleyball coaches, Denny Hilgar, is in full-blown rebuilding mode. Senior setter Kim Lee is the lone returning starter. Junior Lorna Haney was on the team last year. Senior middle blocker Margaret Nurse transfers from Osan American, senior Whitney Grandy returns after a year in Idaho.


Guam High Panthers, Nimitz Hill, 12th in Far East. Ruth Maher, who coached the Panthers to their first championship-round playoff berth in 2002, is back after a two-year hiatus and returns a core of senior support players, including defensive and serving specialist Maryann Riano. Team must overcome the graduation of hitter Sarah Bushong and four-year setter Shella Mesa.

Class A

South Korea

Osan American Cougars, Osan Air Base, fourth in Far East. Coach Brian Swenty’s young squad must make do without senior middle blocker Margaret Nurse (transfer to Seoul American). Returning are senior hitter Jannel Acoba and sophomore setter Dawn Moore. Sophomore hitters Taylor Krok (California), Sasha Gluzinski (International Christian-Pyongtaek) and Crystal Flud (Taegu American) move in.

Taegu American Warriors, Camp George, South Korea, third in Far East. Coach Jennifer Sharp will sorely miss All-Tournament setter Lindsey Jackson (transfer to Italy) and four-year starter Ashley Gooch, but welcomes back a core of veterans: seniors Kelli Cox and Lynette Grant and junior Michelle Weal, who takes the setter’s reins. Junior Kadijah Parker moves in from Alabama, sophomore Courtney Hallenback from South Carolina. Plenty of potential. Should contend for Class A title.

Pusan American Panthers, Camp Hialeah, South Korea, sixth in Far East. Surprising contender in 2004 is back to full rebuilding mode in the school’s last year under new coach Beth Nygard.


E.J. King Cobras, Sasebo Naval Base, seventh in Far East. Typically short but strong defensively. Seventh-year coach Mike Seitz welcomes back six three-year veterans: seniors Elicia Castro, Emie Des Marais, Yvette Cuaycong, Natasha Kugel and Jo An Yu and junior Christina Renick. Will move up the Class A ladder, but a lack of height will keep the Cobras in the middle of the pack.

Matthew C. Perry, Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, eighth in Far East. Another new coach, Jeweel Smith, returns a core of junior veterans Cristina Sindac, Janelle Jones and Inna Chavez.

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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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