Pacific H.S. sports: Lally finds home with Eagles after midseason transfer
FUTENMA MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Okinawa — Transfers are a way of life for Department of Defense Dependents Schools student/athletes. You can be in Germany one year, then off to Okinawa for two or three before a return to the States. “I won’t know anyone — again” is a DODDS student’s mantra.
Changing schools — and girls volleyball teams — in midseason? It doesn’t happen very often but that’s the challenge Robert D. Edgren junior middle blocker Liz Lally is dealing with in this week’s Far East High School Class AA Tournament.
“It was hard,” said Lally, who played for the Zama American Trojans of Japan last season and part of this season, before moving to Misawa Air Base last month and donning an Eagles uniform days before the tournament.
“When I tried it on the first time and looked in the mirror, it didn’t seem like me,” she said Monday between round-robin matches at Futenma’s Semper Fit Sports and Fitness Center. “But I’ll get used to it.”
“I’m sure it’s difficult,” Eagles coach Sarah Richardson said. The Trojans “are her friends, then she has to come to a new school and try to blend in with a new team. ... But I think she’ll do a good job.”
She’s had practice. From Hawaii, Lally moved to Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Japan, two summers ago. Then her father, Bob, a Navy captain, got orders to Misawa Naval Air Facility. This summer, the Lallys are to transfer again, perhaps to Ohio, Liz said.
“You need to settle at Misawa for awhile,” Richardson told Lally, half-jokingly, between matches. “Tell your father that.”
It would have been much harder, Lally said, had her Eagles teammates, rivals during her days in a Trojans uniform, not taken her in right away, but “they welcomed me with open arms.”
“It was easy,” Eagles senior defender Sarah Campbell said. “We knew she was good. That was a positive. She’s a good addition to the team. I’m glad she came to us.”
Lally’s loyalties were to be tested Tuesday, when Edgren faced Zama at Semper Fit.
“On the court, it’s strictly volleyball, but off the court, they’re her friends,” Richardson said. “If we have to play Zama, I’m sure she’ll do the best she can. She’s an athlete.”
“We miss Liz,” said Trojans coach Dennis Decker, whose team dined out Monday with Lally. “She’s a part of our team. She’s a good kid. She’s a competitor, she won’t give an inch, but she still loves the girls.”
Decker also had to adjust his lineup a season ago after losing junior outside hitter Rosanna Ignacio, who transferred and did not play for Zama in the tournament. Decker has developed a philosophy to deal with what he calls one of the hardest parts of DODDS coaching.
“Be a willow,” he said, “not an oak.”
Home cooking tasty for tournament host teams
It’s been six seasons since a host team — Zama American — captured a Far East tournament title. On the first day of round-robin play, the hosts of the Class AA and Class A tournaments got off to flying starts.
Class A host Taegu American and Class AA host Kadena each took five of six sets in pool play Monday.
“They’re doing well,” coach David Hagander said of his Taegu team, which went 8-4 in the regular season and took third place in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference tournament Saturday in Seoul.
“They battle each point, a lot of good individual talent, and good communication. They are up and down, but they seem to make it happen when it counts, bear down and get the job done.”
Other teams took notice of Taegu’s early run.
“They’re a really scrappy team,” Pusan American coach Laird Small said. “They have a lot of confidence and they’re not easily intimidated.”
Though defending champion Morrison Christian Academy of Taiwan and Faith Academy of Manila might appear the teams to beat, “Anything’s possible in this tournament,” Small said. “Taegu, when they’re clicking, they can play with anybody.”
Kadena became the first DODDS-Pacific team since Zama took Class AA in 1997 to win its first-day round-robin pool and reach the Gold Division, which also includes the three other pool winners, for Tuesday’s second phase of round-robin play.
Organizers said the two-tiered round-robin system, used seven times in Class AA tournaments since 1995, is designed to give early round-robin winners a chance to play against “like competition” in advance of the single-elimination playoffs starting Wednesday.
Dave Ornauer, Stars and Stripes sports, Okinawa Kadena High School student-journalist Erika Aragon and Class A tournament organizers Zachary Robinson and Jennifer Sharp contributed to this report.