Good things come in threes for Daegu girls
October 12, 2010
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – If there were an award for best girls small-schools program the last six years, Daegu American could well be in the running.
Since November 2005, Daegu has two Division II volleyball and basketball tournament titles to its credit, plus one Division II soccer title – equaling Osan American’s title haul over the same period.
The common denominators: cores of three on-field leaders. And unlike schools that welcome transfers the way some people change socks, Daegu, says volleyball coach Joanna Wyche, has “grown” those cores from fledgling freshmen to star seniors in those three sports.
“We’re home grown,” basketball coach Michelle Chandler said. “Sometimes we get lucky” with transfers, but for the most part, “we stick with what we’ve got.”
“You cannot hope and pray and look to transfers,” Wyche said. “You have to put that out of your mind. If one comes in, you go, ‘Oh, we’ve been blessed,’ But you can’t look to that, ever.”
This school year, Daegu has a chance to match Osan in another category – becoming only the second DODDS school to win three Far East Division II titles in the same school year.
Seniors Kristina Bergman, Angie Robinet and Gulee Kwon have played volleyball, basketball and soccer for the Warriors since they were freshmen. Daughters of civilian employees, Bergman has been in Korea for six years, Robinet for five and Kwon her entire life.
“Those three are the core,” Chandler said. “Having three people who play together, who are experienced and hungry, they make a difference.”
That triumvirate first takes on the task of defending the Far East Division II volleyball title next month at Misawa Air Base, Japan. They began the season with eight straight Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference victories and are 14-4 overall.
Even though the core was there, it wasn’t built without some serious creation and culture change on Wyche’s part. The threesome came to Daegu after another trio, Lynnette Grant, Kelli Cox and Michelle Weal, had graduated … and taken their winning attitudes with them.
Prior to a road trip to Seoul American and Seoul Foreign three years ago, Wyche told her players, “OK, we have Seoul this weekend.” One player approached her and said: “There’s no way we’ll ever beat Seoul.”
“I went off,” Wyche said. “I said, ‘Don’t ever, ever let me hear you say whom you’re not going to beat, because then you’re already defeated. And we might as well never play them.”
Then, Wyche said, she had to battle things that players and parents “saw as standard.” To be successful, Wyche insisted that players and parents couldn’t treat volleyball as seasonal. They had to condition year-round and work on skills in the various clinics and camps around Korea in June and August, well before the season starts.
It takes “patience, doubt, frustration, even the temptation to say, ‘That’s it. I’m tired,’” Wyche said. “But if I give up on them, how can I expect for them to not give up on themselves? I’ll fuss, I’ll discipline, but no matter what, I would never give up on them.”
Wyche says she studies the game intensely throughout the year, e-mailing coaches in the Pacific and the States for advice and seeks every opportunity for competition besides KAIAC, such as last weekend’s Kadena Invitational Tournament; she coached at Kadena before arriving in Korea three years ago. Prior to Kadena, she never coached, she said.
Her players say she’s “different,” but “she’s more than a coach,” Robinet said. “She’s like our mother. You can’t go wrong with Coach Wyche. You’re there to play or not at all; that’s her motto.”
Once everybody buys in, “we go from ‘We can’t beat Seoul’ to ‘Now, we’re ready.’ Now, not only do they realize they can beat Seoul, they can beat anybody if they put their mind, effort and energy to it,” Wyche said.
With any team building comes chemistry. That means insisting that players check the drama at the gym door, Wyche said.
“If you are that type, do us a favor and don’t come back tomorrow,” Wyche says she tells her players and parents at season’s start. “You will not bring it into the gym, into conflict with each other; I refuse to allow you to kill what we’re trying to build.”
The players recognize that, as well as how such drama could ruin the opportunity to match Osan’s title trifecta in 2008-09.
“We’re at the apogee of our high school athletic careers. It would be such a disgrace to turn that down,” Robinet said, adding that the core supports Wyche’s “zero tolerance for drama and attitudes.”
The last part of team building is continuity. While counting on her key players of today, Wyche is building the future, which will include current juniors Maleah Potts-Cash and Leanne Quizon, sophomore Michelle Quizon and freshman Kaitlyn Nott, among others.
“That’s my goal. I tell the girls, I never expect to have a dry season,” Wyche said. “I’m always looking ahead to develop my team.”
The senior core understands its role in that future building. “We want to leave that legacy, a plant for us to grow and grow and keep this program going,” Robinet said.
It takes a trioA look at threesomes who’ve spelled success for Daegu American’s girls Far East tournament title teams since November 2005. Of the 10 players listed, all but two – Eades, who stayed a year as a sophomore, and Hancock, who arrived as a junior – played their entire high school careers at Daegu American:
2005, Division II volleyball tournamentLynnette Grant, senior, outside hitter; Kelli Cox, senior, middle blocker; Michelle Weal, senior, outside hitter.
2006, Division II basketball tournamentLynnette Grant, senior, guard-forward; Kelli Cox, senior, forward; Tamara “Tank” Hancock, senior, guard.
2007, Division II soccer tournamentLinda Martinez, sophomore, sweeper-stopper; Sarah Eades, sophomore, midfielder; Kat Nufable, senior, center-forward.
2009, Division II volleyball tournamentKristina Bergman, junior, middle blocker; Angie Robinet, junior, setter; Gulee Kwon, junior, setter.
2010, Division II basketball tournamentKristina Bergman, junior, center; Angie Robinet, junior, guard; Gulee Kwon, junior, guard.