Okinawa teams rule in Class AA soccer
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Call it the All-Okinawa Party.
Kadena and Kubasaki swept through Thursday’s semifinals to ensure that both the boys and girls Class AA Far East soccer titles will remain on Okinawa.
Defending boys champ Kadena edged Seoul American 3-2, while Kubasaki downed Christian Academy In Japan 4-2 at Yokota Air Base. Two-time defending girls cham Kubasaki blanked Seoul American 3-0 and Kadena outlasted Nile C. Kinnick 3-1 to reach the finals at Camp Zama.
“Isn’t that awesome? That’s so cool. That will be fun,” said Kadena boys coach Sue Fitzpatrick.
Since the Class AA tournaments began in 1998, Okinawa has overwhelmed the field, with the Kadena and Kubasaki boys and girls teams capturing two titles each. But never have they so dominated both events.
“It’s wonderful for the two teams that are so isolated to come here and do so well,” said Kubasaki boys coach Butch Spain, referring to a regular season in which the Dragons and Panthers face only each other, Okinawa Christian International and Japanese and military club teams.
The four teams are hardly strangers. Kadena was dominant during the season, the girls winning all three matches by a combined 9-0, while the boys went 2-0-1 against the Dragons.
“That was then. This is now,” Kadena girls coach Hoa Nguyen said. Fitzpatrick agreed.
“It’s still the same teams that are participating, you still have to bring your game, but the level of intensity has increased and there’s more emotion involved,” she said.
Kadena and Kubasaki have faced each other three times for the Far East title, and each time the team that won the regular-season series lost in the final.
“Anything’s possible,” said Kubasaki junior captain Erin Foote, a member of the 2002 club that beat Kadena.
Kadena’s squads certainly have carried their regular-season momentum into the tournament.
In 20 matches overall, the Lady Panthers have outscored opponents 109-3, including 20-2 in four Class AA tournament games.
Meanwhile, the boys have outgunned opponents 70-9 in 17 matches — including 49-3 in nine games in the tournament.
Kubasaki has improved its play in the tournament, particularly the boys, who came to Far East 4-11 but went 6-2 through Thursday’s games, outscoring opponents 30-14.
Said Fitzpatrick: “They have the ability to step it up when it’s a must-win situation. That’s something they’re able to that some of the other teams at this level didn’t do. They don’t give up. And that pays off.”