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In three seasons at Pusan American, junior striker Brie Carroll has earned almost every honor, except one.

She’s scored 68 goals, second in the region over that span. Twice, she’s been a All-Far East selection.

But Carroll is tired of falling short in the Class A girls soccer tournament, and hopes this is the year the Lady Panthers finally claim the Far East title.

“I’ve been waiting all year,” she said. “This is my whole year, right here. I can’t wait. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time.”

Pusan hosts the 2004 Class A tournament starting Monday at Camp Hialeah, South Korea. If progression is any indicator, the Lady Panthers could be on the verge of collecting that title. Pusan placed third in the tournament two years ago. In 2003, the Lady Panthers went 14-3-1 and finished second in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference and Class A tournaments — the best season in the team’s eight-year history.

Pusan’s 10-0 record this spring includes Pusan’s first victory over Seoul Foreign and its second over Seoul American, two perennial KAIAC powers. The KAIAC tournament was staged Friday and Saturday at Seoul Foreign.

Although Carroll has provided a significant chunk of the team’s offense, she insists the Lady Panthers are not one-dimensional.

“It’s not just a one-person team,” she said.

Added Pusan coach Gary Canner, “She has plenty of support out there.”

That typically comes from a steady defense, headed by Mycal Horton and Angie Vandersys.

Vandersys, a fullback, “has turned into our best defender,” Canner said.

Pusan’s scoring also has been more balanced this season. Carroll has 16 goals, while younger sister Cassie, with 12, and Shea Lippert, with 10, are also effective up front.

“We have two forwards who can put the ball in the net,” Brie Carroll said.

Seoul American coach Lori Cannon agrees.

“Shut down Brie and you take away a big part of their game, but they do have talented support as well,” she said. “If you focus too much on one player, the other teammates seem to pick up the slack. Whoever plays them needs to raise their level of play.”

Osan American, the two-time defending champion, has fallen off somewhat at 5-5-2 this season. Both ties came against Seoul American, and the Lady Cougars won their past two matches by shutout.

“We still consider them our biggest opposition,” Carroll said.

Added Canner, “I know they’re getting better every week. That’s what they’re famous for, getting stronger as the season goes on.”

Then, there’s an unknown factor: Faith Academy of the Philippines enters the tournament for the first time.

“They show all indications of being quite strong,” Canner said, noting that Faith captured the Class A volleyball title in November and has been a perennial basketball power, with five Far East championships.

“Judging by their basketball and volleyball teams, they have athletes,” Canner said.

Still, Canner and Carroll know they’ll likely enter the tournament with the team to beat.

“We’re trying not to be too excited,” Canner said. “Keep it low-key and businesslike. We’re definitely not overconfident.”

“It really comes down to who wants it more,” Carroll said. “I know I want it. For two years, I’ve watched it go by. I’m ready to take it.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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