KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Kadena Invitational Girls Volleyball tournament left competitors walking away with more than just wins and losses.

Kadena hosted its first in-season invitational at the Panther Pit over Columbus Day weekend.

One coach called it a “dress rehearsal” for next month’s Far East Division I and II tournaments. With 16 matches in four days — including seven on Saturday with several teams scheduled back-to-back — the schedule was testimony to that.

“The experience of playing at a higher level and playing at the tempo of a tournament like this,” said Kadena coach Greg Rosenberger.

The tournament brought together Okinawa Activities Council rivals Kadena, Kubasaki and Okinawa Christian International, defending Division II Tournament champion Daegu American of South Korea and two Japanese schools.

In addition to the hectic playing schedule, teams got a chance to bond and develop relationships with one another. Coaches from opposing teams traded tips and advice with each other, even stopping to lend a hand when another team’s player got hurt during a match.

Daegu came away with the best record of the three American teams, 5-3, with Kubasaki a half-game behind at 4-3. Kadena finished at 0-7. Japanese team Shuri Higashi went a perfect 6-0.

It was a wakeup of sorts for Daegu, which entered the tournament with a 9-1 Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference record, but lost the last match Friday and two straight on Saturday — the team’s first three-match losing skid in two seasons.

“It should make them better; it’s whether they allow it to make them better,” Daegu coach Joanna Wyche said of the benefits of those hard knocks in a tournament format.

“What are you going to do with the experience that this tournament has brought you? What are you going to do with the opportunity that’s been provided you? And what are you going to do with the positives and negatives? Because we can learn from both.”

Kubasaki lost to Daegu 25-9, 25-16 on Friday, but rebounded Saturday to upend the Warriors 22-25, 25-9, 15-10.

“You need one of those types of games when you come back from the depths of playing horribly in order to feel that way,” Dragons coach Mike Hogen said. “I want them to believe in themselves. Now, they’ve gained some confidence.”

Most on Okinawa came to see Daegu’s three-time All-Division II spiker Kristina Bergman, but came away impressed with more than her.

“I didn’t expect them to be as fundamentally sound as they are,” Hogen said. “That whole team … can play ball. They’re good.”

OCSI played just one match, but it was against Daegu, a team the Crusaders will battle in the Division II tournament at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The Warriors beat OCSI 25-13, 25-10.

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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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