High School Roundup Kadena’s Ahner rewards coach’s faith
Stars and Stripes May 11, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Freshman Aaron Ahner didn’t even make the cut for the Kadena Panthers’ varsity boys soccer team at the start of the season.
But after Ahner spent four weeks proving himself on the B squad, coach Tom McKinney promoted him to the varsity — and the move reaped huge dividends on Friday when Ahner scored the goal that won the Okinawa Activities Council season series for Kadena.
Ahner broke a 1-1 deadlock two minutes into the second half as the Panthers edged Kubasaki 3-1. The teams entered Friday’s finale of the five-match OAC season series level at two matches apiece with a goal differential of 8-8.
“It feels great,” Ahner said of his fifth goal of the season.
He took a through pass from junior fullback Jamil Barney, and the 6-foot-2 Ahner drove right, then cut across the middle before launching a left-footed laser over Dragons goalkeeper Zach Stalling.
“I was just doing my thing,” Ahner said.
“I was thinking whether I should go right or left, and I went left. When I shot, I didn’t know if it was going to go in. When it did, I felt great. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
“We’re happy to have him,” McKinney said of Ahner, a lifelong resident of Okinawa who’d played club ball prior to trying out for Kadena’s varsity in February.
Ahner didn’t show what McKinney said was the needed work ethic to make the varsity. “It was a wake-up for him,” McKinney said. “But he took it, he drove with it and look where he is today. He got the goal that clinched the game and the season series.”
Kubasaki led five minutes into the match on Rimar West’s turnaround goal just outside the area.
But the Panthers clamped down on Kubasaki in the middle before Stan Schrock leveled the contest 14 minutes later off a through pass from Earl Gittens. Will Mackey added an insurance marker in the 89th minute.
“This should propel us into the next level,” McKinney said of the upcoming Far East Class AA tournament May 19-23 on Okinawa. “Whoever does well here does well at Far East.”
“We were outplayed,” Kubasaki coach Chris Kelly said. “It’s one of those matches where if you don’t come with your ‘A’ game, you’ll lose. We were on the bad side. They (Kadena) came to play and they dictated the style of play.”
Practice makes perfect as Panthers win in shootout
After losing their previous encounter against Kubasaki in a penalty-kick shootout on April 25, Kadena’s girls decided they didn’t want a similar ending in Friday’s match, coach Hoa Nguyen said.
They spent Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices working on penalty kicks. The move paid off Friday as the Panthers outlasted the Dragons in a shootout 4-3.
“The last time, it caught us by surprise,” coach Hoa Nguyen said. “We learned from it. We practiced it. It paid off.”
Kubasaki still earned a 3-2 season-series victory over Kadena, its first since 2003.
Unique officiating crew for OAC boys final
Friday’s referee crew featured an unusual father-daughter combination. David Abel, a retired Marine captain working for Marine Corps Community Services, was one linesman, his daughter Dianne the other. His younger daughter, Jen, handled substitutions as the fourth official.
Dianne and Jen rewrote the record book in their five combined seasons in Kadena girls uniform. They have 370 goals between them, Jen 192 and Dianne 178. Jen set the Pacific season record with 83.
The three are certified with the Ryukyu International Soccer Association, which officiates OAC matches.
Would Jen rather be officiating or still playing?
“It’s my high school. I love it. I played with a lot of these girls,” Jen said after the girls match. “But it’s their time now. It’s their turn to shine.”