Okinawa schools face challenges as other contenders rise in Class AA soccer
May 18, 2008
Time was when the only question needing an answer come the Far East High School Class AA Soccer Tournaments was: Which Okinawa team will win this year?
Christian Academy in Japan’s boys team shattered that veneer with an overtime victory three years ago. Now, the whispers abound that this may finally be the year the girls title also leaves Okinawa.
"It’s very possible. There are a lot of good teams out there," said coach Lori Rogers of Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference girls champion Seoul American (17-0-1).
"I hope so, whether it be Japan or Korea," added Vanessa Little, second-year coach of Zama American’s girls team (16-2-1). Her Trojans handed perennial Kanto Plain power American School in Japan its only loss of the season, Zama’s first win over ASIJ in school history.
"It’s wide open," said coach Terry Chumley of Kubasaki of Okinawa, which begins its championship defense and the chase for its fourth overall title starting Monday at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
The chase this year includes 11 girls teams, while 12 will chase the Boys Class AA crown at Okinawa’s Kadena High School over the five-day tournament period.
Okinawa’s Class AA domination has come thanks, in part, to weather conducive to year-round soccer, and the fact that Kadena and Kubasaki players participate in Marine tournaments and play with Japanese clubs in town during the off-season.
But this season’s Panthers and Dragons squads are in rebuilding mode, fielding 70 percent underclassmen. Such an inexperience gradient would appear to throw the door open for off-island teams to snatch the grail.
"We’ve never had a team like that," said Kadena girls coach Hoa Nguyen, who brings nine underclassmen to Yokota.
And this is the first year since 2002 that Nguyen doesn’t field a player named Abel; Dianne and Jen are now graduated, taking their 370 goals with them.
"We’ll never see that again; that was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Nguyen said. "This will be very interesting, a year when anybody can take the championship. It’s a level playing field. It’s all who wants it more."
Seoul American dominated in its midfield quadrant of Katie and Jess Bollander, with the striking power of Erica Anglade, Sarah Eades and Angye Law.
In the Kanto Plain, freshman Mallarie Ashliman (34 goals) and sophomore midfielder Whitney McWherter sparked the Trojans attack. Despite losing striker Courtney Richards to an ankle fracture, Yokota finished just behind Zama at 14-3-3.
Why the sudden success for non-Okinawa teams?
"It’s hard to explain," Rogers said, adding that building powers is made all the more difficult by the constant comings and goings of players. "It’s just one of those years when everything has come together for all those teams."
One common denominator to that success, Nguyen said, is the departure of non-Okinawa teams boasting just one or two stars and leaning more toward building full teams that play team ball.
"You have to play team defense" to beat a Seoul, Zama or Yokota, he said. "Back then, you could afford to put two people on one striker. Now, all 10 players have to play team defense, and the goalkeeper must also be sharp."
"You have to have balance," Chumley said. "You have to play good transition on both sides of the ball."
While the rest of the Pacific appears to be catching up to Okinawa’s girls, Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s boys tried a different tack in this year’s regular season — playing adult club teams that emphasize speed and quickness, particularly on defense.
Though Kadena went 10-7-1 and Kubasaki 4-10 during the season, Peru Nikei and Mil United "prepared us well" for Far East, Kadena boys coach Tom McKinney said.
Kadena has always done well at home, McKinney said, reminding those who didn’t see the 2007 tournament that CAJ won the title in a 5-3 penalty-kick shootout against Kadena. "It could have just as easily been us," McKinney said. "Anything can happen in a shootout."
Keeping an eye on one team at a time and not looking too far ahead, McKinney said, will be keys to victory.
"If you bypass one team, you end up losing," he said. "You have to keep focused on the game at hand, look at what’s in front of you."
Chumley says she’s looking forward to the challenge. "I’m excited for us to play and watch what happens. It will be interesting to see how everybody matches up."
Class AA soccer capsulesFar East High School Boys Class AA Soccer Tournament
Dates-May 19-23, 2008.
Host-Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
Site-Upper Field and Lower Field, Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
Participating teams-Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa (champions in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2006); Kadena junior varsity Panthers; Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa (champions in 2001, 2002); Kubasaki junior varsity Dragons; Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan; Zama American Trojans, Camp Zama, Japan; Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan; Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea; Guam High Panthers, Nimitz Hill, Guam; Christian Academy In Japan Knights, Tokyo (Class A champions in 2002, Class AA champions in 2005, 2007); Hong Kong International Dragons, Hong Kong; Robert D. Edgren Eagles, Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Returning All-Far East players-Leo Kobayashi, Christian Academy In Japan (two-time selection); Stanley Schrock, Kadena; Shawn Grandy, Seoul American; Shawn Kee, Zama American.
Format-Single round-robin, two pools of six teams each, first 2½ days. 30-minute halves, five-minute intermission. Wins count for three points, ties for one point and losses for no points. Tiebreaker procedure for seeding purposes: 1) Head-to-head play, 2) goal differential among teams involved in tie up to three goals per match, 3) goals against among teams involved in tie, 4) coin toss. Single-elimination tournament with consolation bracket last three days, 40-minute halves, 10-minute intermission. Overtime involves two 5- or 10-minute halves to be determined, no "golden goal," followed by penalty-kick shootout, if necessary. Mercy rule applies to all matches; match will end if one team takes eight-goal lead, regardless of time left.
Schedule of events-Pre-tournament coaches meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Kadena High School. Opening ceremony at 8 a.m. Monday at Upper Field. First round-robin matches at 9 a.m. Monday. Last round-robin matches at 11 a.m. Wednesday. First playoff matches at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Championship match at 3 p.m. Friday at Lower Field, followed by awards ceremony.
Awards-Banner and traveling trophy to champion team, medals to players on top three teams, Team Sportsmanship Award, individual MVP, Golden Boot, Outstanding Defender and 15-player All-Tournament team.
Far East High School Girls Class AA Soccer Tournament
Dates-May 19-23, 2008.
Host-Yokota High School, Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Site-Bonk Field, Yokota High School, and Yokota Middle School Field, Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Participating teams-Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa (champions in 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006); Kubasaki Dragons, Camp Foster, Okinawa (champions in 2002, 2003 and 2007); Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan; Zama American Trojans, Camp Zama, Japan; Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan; Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea; Guam High Panthers, Nimitz Hill, Guam; American School In Japan Mustangs, Tokyo; Hong Kong International Dragons, Hong Kong; Seisen International Phoenix, Tokyo; Robert D. Edgren Eagles, Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Returning All-Far East players-Angela Vandersys, Seoul American (Class A with Pusan American in 2005); Alyssa Rodriguez (2006 Class A MVP), Robert D. Edgren; Erica Anglade, Sarah Eades (Class A in 2007 with Daegu American), Seoul American; Helen Schrock, Kadena; Morgan Bridgman, American School In Japan; Britta Winans, Hong Kong International; Sarah Riley, Seisen International; Sarah Jagodzinski, Guam High.
Format-Single round-robin, two pools, one of five teams, one of six teams, first two days, 30-minute halves, five-minute intermission. Wins count for three points, ties for one point and losses for no points. Tiebreaker procedure for seeding purposes: 1) Head-to-head play, 2) goal differential among teams involved in tie up to three goals per team per match, 3) goals against among teams involved in tie, 4) coin toss. Single-elimination tournament with consolation bracket last three days, 40-minute halves, 10-minute intermission. Overtime involves two 5-minute halves, no "golden goal," followed by penalty-kick shootout, if necessary. Mercy rule applies to all matches; match will end if one team takes eight-goal lead, regardless of time left.
Schedule of events-Pre-tournament coaches’ meeting at 7 p.m. Sunday at Yokota Enlisted Club. Opening ceremony at 7:45 a.m. Monday at Bonk Field. First round-robin matches at 9 a.m. Monday. Last round-robin matches 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. First playoff matches 8 a.m. Wednesday. Championship match 3 p.m. Friday, followed by awards ceremony.
Awards-Trophies to top six teams, banner and individual awards to champion team, Team Sportsmanship Award, individual Most Outstanding Player, Golden Boot and Outstanding Goalkeeper awards, 15-player All-Tournament team.