For Pacific’s top goalscorer, eyes stay on the prize
May 11, 2006
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — As Dianne Abel’s high school soccer career winds down, all the individual honors she’s garnered in her four years as Kadena’s leading striker have done little to change her outlook.
It would be understandable if they had. Abel is a two-time Class AA tournament MVP and holds the Pacific record for goals in a season (66). Now, with 151 goals, she has passed her best friend, former Kubasaki record-setter Erin Foote, to become the Pacific’s career goals leader.
But that doesn’t matter, Abel said. “It’s what it takes for the team to come out on top at 5 p.m. May 19,” she said of the Class AA tournament final. “We’ve been going for the team concept, rather than individual glory.”
Nonetheless, Kadena has for the past three seasons ridden the scoring of Abel and her younger sister Jennifer, a junior. Since they entered the lineup in 2004, Kadena has gone 52-1-1. In that span, Dianne has 78 assists. Jennifer has 79 goals and 51 assists. This year, Jennifer leads Kadena with 40 goals; Dianne has 34.
Dianne and Jennifer insist their feats came as a result of teamwork — and their teammates insist they try to get them as many opportunities as possible.
“There’s no jealousy,” Kadena coach Hoa Nguyen said. “They work so well together. They click. … It doesn’t matter who’s scoring. To them, it’s the ‘W’ that matters.”
“Statistics don’t show everything,” Jennifer said. “Statistics show goals and assists but the people who set them up, they deserve more recognition than anybody.”
Senior right wing Alicia Larson, who has 10 assists, likens the Panthers to a potluck dinner, where “everybody brings a little something different to the table.”
Jennifer agreed, saying, “Our team is at such a high level, no one person is really standing above anybody else. Everybody is doing their part. Everybody is looking good.”
“You can see it in our teamwork,” Larson said.
It’s also evident off the field, whether the players are making designs for their team T-shirts or hanging out at Burger King.
“We have such good team chemistry,” Dianne said. “We’re to the point where if we have problems, we can approach them, discuss them and put them behind us. Especially this close to Far East. Any problems we’d have now would destroy us as a team.”
With two matches and the Class AA tournament on tap, Dianne could set career scoring standards tough to topple. She insists that’s far from her mind.
“We have three practices and two matches left before Far East,” she said. “All that goal-scoring stuff takes a back seat to the team goal.”
A rival coach cites such leadership as a crucial element in the Panthers’ team-first attitude.
Said Okinawa Christian School International’s David Lacar, “She’s a complete player, a leader by example, her work ethic, her determination to improve on already good skills.” She elevates her teammates’ level of play, he said.
“Put that all together, she’s a tough competitor.”
Dianne graduates in June and will play beside Foote at Winthrop University in South Carolina next fall; Jennifer returns next year as a senior. Nguyen says he feels blessed to have had them in his lineup for two years.
“Finding good team players is hard,” he said, “but it’s easier than finding good finishers, especially two good finishers on the same team. … The players learn from them about what it takes to play at the next level.”