PacificFar East soccer
Four sites + dozens of teams + expanded competition = excitement
Stars and Stripes April 23, 2023
Of the teams that have come out of the COVID dark days the most successfully, Daegu’s girls soccer team stands to do something it hasn’t done in 16 years.
The Warriors just missed the DODEA-Korea title in 2021, the year play resumed after being shut down in 2020. And last year, Gina Kim and Emma Sims each scored goals to give Daegu a 2-0 triumph over Osan in the DODEA-Korea finals at the Warriors’ home Kelly Field.
Backed by Kim and Sims, coach Kathryn Brashears - in her first season at the Warriors’ helm - is hoping her charges can bring home the banner for the first time since winning in overtime in 2007.
“We’re really excited,” said Brasheras, whose Warriors went 6-1-2 during the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference second-tier Red Division season.
They head for Misawa Air Base on Sunday along with six other DODEA teams plus Christian Academy Japan for the Far East Division II Tournament hosted by Robert D. Edgren.
All four DODEA-Pacific soccer tournaments are scheduled for Monday-Wednesday, the boys D-II at Matthew C. Perry, the boys D-I at Nile C. Kinnick and girls D-I at Kadena. All feature pool or full round-robin play followed by single-elimination playoffs with consolation.
Kim, a junior, leads the team with 11 goals and has six assists, but what excites Brashears about Kim is how she’s handling the ball differently since the start of the season.
“I see her starting to do moves that she wasn’t doing at the start of the season, so I’m really excited about that,” Brashears said. Sims, along with her senior twin sister Ella are what Brashears calls the “foundation of the team.”
It’s the back line that’s been strong for Daegu, Brashears said, to include freshman fullback Zoe Stegall, junior fullback Rachel Windham and junior first-year goalkeeper Lindsie Hadlock.
“Stegall is really tough; she doesn’t let the ball go through,” Brashears said. “Rachel, she’s got a foot on her and she’s really smart. Lindsie is turning into a pretty smart keeper.”
The Warriors will face their challengers, including Yokota (11-6-1), led by Hailey Riddels (18 goals) and Lilly Wellons (seven assists). E.J. King (13-6-3) is led by the threesome of Maliwan Schinker (19 goals), Madylyn O’Neill and Aileen FitzGerald.
“I can’t wait to see what we do,” Brashears said.
Leading the girls D-I pack are Kinnick and Kubasaki, each unbeaten (Dragons 9-0, Red Devils 19-0) and led by a strong mix of youngsters and veterans.
Sophomores Solares Solano and Sakura Lopez have combined for 25 goals for Kubasaki; junior Hailey Witt (32) and senior Mikaila Joi Miranda (23) have powered a Kinnick team that has totaled 110 goals.
“I think we’re a stronger team than last year’s, and that was a strong team,” Dragons coach Chris Eastman said; Kubasaki won the All-DODEA-Japan tournament last April. “I feel like we are deeper than we were. We’ll be able to mix and match players and get contributions from everybody.”
The Red Devils must adjust, along with all other D-I teams except Kubasaki, to playing on Kadena’s grass field.
“We have to adapt quickly … some of our players have never played on grass,” Kinnick coach Nico Hindie said. “We need to take advantage of our opportunities and go out there playing hard every game.”
Coming in under the radar will be Humphreys, which went 6-4 in KAIAC’s first-tier Blue Division, led by veteran Nicole Donaldson (14 goals) and transfers Claire Anderson (5) and Syra Soto (7), the latter who played for Kubasaki last season.
Speaking of transfers, Guam High, unbeaten so far, brings a former Kadena girls striker, NyKale Penn, back to her old school. She has seven goals so far for her new Panthers team.
On the boys side, Kadena, Kubasaki and Kinnick are very familiar with each other, having squared off in the Perry Cup the first weekend of March. They each took turns beating each other, with the Panthers winning that tournament via goal differential.
Frank Stare (16) and Matthew Yulee (8) lead the Dragons in goals, but coach Tony Washington feels it’ll take “somebody unexpected to step up, somebody to step into the role that they’re capable of playing. And you have to respect every team. You never know what they’ll bring.”
All three of those teams have grown since the Perry Cup, Red Devils coach Tim Rippeth said. His team has gotten what he calls “solid contributions” from the likes of Yuta Raqueno (24 goals), Gabriel Robinson (17), Edgren transfer Elias Alvord (12 goals) and brothers Kobo and Leon Awesso, who’ve combined for 19 goals and 20 assists.
“It will come down to meeting our objectives and execute what we set out to do and respecting our opponents, no matter who comes to play,” Rippeth said.
Division II appears to be a wide-open race for the boys: Senna Solberg (33 goals) leads a Yokota team that has gone 11-3-1 since losing its first eight, and just finished beating a Christian Academy Japan team that has dominated the Panthers in the past. E.J. King (7-8-4) and Zama (6-8-2) could also have a voice in it.