Kadena’s Abel, LaGrave are Stripes’ Athletes of Quarter
So much rang similar between Kadena sophomores Nathan LaGrave and Dianne Abel — key players in the Far East Class AA Tournament title runs for the Panthers’ soccer teams — yet their roles and styles were vastly different.
The Kadena girls’ offense centered on Abel, a center-forward who rang up Pacific-wide highs of 34 goals and 19 assists.
LaGrave served more as a combination of on-field coach and traffic cop for the boys team. He didn’t post gaudy numbers (12 goals, seven assists) but helped teammates prosper.
Both were selected tournament Most Valuable or Most Outstanding Player and earned Stars and Stripes’ Pacific Athlete of the Quarter honors.
LaGrave “is the type of field leader every coach is looking for ... a joy to have on the team," coach Sue Fitzpatrick said.
Though only in his second year of varsity ball, LaGrave has played soccer much of his life.
“His understanding of the game and his ability to discern when his teammates are ‘down’ are part of what makes him a great player,” Fitzpatrick said. “You would not believe he is just a sophomore as you watch him … directing, encouraging, motivating his teammates.”
Kadena girls’ team finished 21-0 thanks to a high-octane offense for which Abel provided the fuel.
“She’s a team player who helps others around her play better,” coach Hoa Nguyen said, adding that Abel’s contributions often go unnoticed because she scores so frequently. “She does whatever I ask during the game. ... Her behavior and conduct in the classroom, on base and on the field is excellent.”
The rest of the 2004 spring season Stars and Stripes’ awards:
Coach of the quarter: Bonnie Seeley’s Yokota softball team, gutted by graduation and transfer and fielding about 50 percent freshmen, nonetheless captured its sixth straight DODDS-Japan regular-season crown, won the postseason tournament and finished the year 18-1. An awesome rebuilding job.
Team of the quarter: Kadena’s girls strikers, who allowed just three goals during a 21-0 season, nose out a field of worthy candidates.
Program of the quarter: Kadena stands tall, with its Class AA soccer titles.
Most improved team: After years of tenancy in the basement, Guam High’s girls basketball team, led by Porsche Jones, Jackie Street and Jamese Slade, went 9-4 in the regular season and reached the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam playoff quarterfinals.
Best newcomer: Crystal Sandness, a sophomore transfer from West Jordan High in Utah, arrived at Kubasaki in late February, then went unbeaten and rewrote the OAC’s distance record book, posting Pacific season bests in the one-mile (5 minutes, 34 seconds) and two-mile (11:43) runs.
Best in a new sport: After starring on the diamond their first three years of school, Kinnick seniors Richie Korth and Carol Tully tried soccer and shined. Korth, dividing time between sweeper and center-mid, scored eight goals for the Red Devils (15-6-3) and Tully, a goalkeeper, allowed just four goals in the regular season for Kinnick (13-1-1), a 0.33 goals-against average.
Top softball player: Senior slugger Amy Ware, batting in the cleanup spot, led an arsenal of bats that powered Kadena to a 12-0 season.
Top baseball player: Yokota junior right-hander Shawn Novak went 7-2, beating every team in the Japan League at least once. In 70 innings, he had a 2.57 ERA, struck out 102 and walked just seven, a 14-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also batted .569.
Top track and field athlete: Senior Brenden Lynce of Nile C. Kinnick completed two seasons unbeaten in 29 straight hurdles events.
Game of the quarter: All signs pointed to Yokota’s boys soccer team returning to the Class AA Final Four until the closing minutes of regulation in the quarterfinals on April 29, when Seoul American converted a penalty kick, then scored again to win 2-1 in overtime.
Play of the quarter: Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s boys were on the verge of overtime until Zac Zendejas gathered a loose ball to the right of the net and the penalty area in the 74th minute. He fired over the left shoulder of Kubasaki keeper David Motu to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Eighteen minutes earlier, Motu stopped Zendejas point blank on a breakaway.