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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — It didn’t matter that the matches officially were scrimmages with coaches using “experimental line-ups.” Facing an unfamiliar foe made all the difference.

Volleyball coaches and players from Seoul American, Kadena and Kubasaki, said a weekend series at Kubasaki was a welcomed break from the monotony each team faces during the regular season.

“We have no real league here, so whenever we have the opportunity to play somebody besides Kadena, it’s good for us,” Kubasaki coach Terry Chumley said Monday.

“I’d trade my coaching paycheck for a few more teams on the island,” added Kadena coach Rachelle Smith.

Seoul American, with more than 600 students, usually dominates the schools with much smaller enrollment that make up the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference. This season’s been no different: So far, the Falcons have run the table in seven league matches.

So coach Denny Hilgar wanted to expose his players to competition against larger schools in another environment. His players threw a series of fund-raisers, including bake sales and car washes, to pay for the trip.

“It was worth it,” said Seoul American senior spiker Sarah Bradford. “There was no opposition” to the idea.

Seoul American played a pair of four-set scrimmages with the two Okinawa schools, splitting its two matches with Kadena and twice taking three of four sets against Kubasaki.

It was an eye-opener, the Falcons players said, as well as a sneak preview of what they’ll face in the Far East Class AA Tournament Nov. 10-15 at Kadena Air Base.

“This gave us more competition and the new players who haven’t been at Far East got to see what the competition is like,” said three-year veteran setter Jio Bruce.

“It showed us that what we were doing wasn’t half of what we’re going to do at Far East,” Sheriah Taua added. “"We learned that we have to play our best in every game. It makes me a bit scared of what’s coming next month.”

“You tell them something is going to happen,” Hilgar said, “but they have to experience it for it to sink in.”

The added court time for the Dragons and Panthers — who play each other only three times and face no other American squads until Far East — was a plus, Chumley said.

“And you’re playing against a different style than Kadena offers,” he said. “Kadena covers the court very well. Seoul American focuses more on their offense.”

Smith said the difference in season schedules really stands out for her: Kadena also tries to play Japanese teams on the island to fill out its schedule, but Seoul American plays a full season against other Department of Defense Dependents Schools and international school teams.

“I was super jealous when they told me that they play a 15-game schedule, yet still had to come here for a weekend,” Smith said, half-jokingly. “It was nice to see somebody other than Kubasaki.”

“It was fun, it was great,” Chumley said. “The girls enjoy Seoul American’s company. We always enjoy working with that group.”

Around the Pacific

¶ Senior top seed Priscilla Umemoto quietly is cobbling together a stellar season for the Osan American tennis team. She ran the table over the weekend, beating Seoul Foreign’s Sarah Kwon for the second time this season and Seoul American’s Alicia Davis to improve to 5-2.

¶ Edgren sophomore Daniel Sanchez continues to star on Japan’s cross-country course, winning for the fourth time in as many races to become the favorite to capture the season-ending Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools meet Oct. 25.

¶ Niki Kauzlarich of Kadena beat teammate and defending Far East individual champion Kim Lyle at last Wednesday’s Okinawa Activities Council meet at White Beach Naval Station — Lyle’s first loss in 12 meets dating to last season.

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