TOKYO – Call Thursday Redemption Day for ASIJ girls soccer.
Maya Szerdahelyi banged home the rain-soaked match’s only goal in the 69th minute and American School In Japan hung on to blank Yokota 1-0, capturing the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools title and Japan’s top seed into next week’s Far East Division I Tournament.
It was a complete reversal of the Mustangs’ regular-season finale last May 11, when Nile C. Kinnick scored in the sixth minute, then hung on for dear life to shut out ASIJ 1-0. While Far East will be the real challenge, “We’ll celebrate this now,” ASIJ coach Nate Gildart said.
Thursday’s match was delayed 40 minutes by lightning, and rain began during warm-ups and lasted throughout the match, sometimes a sprinkle, at other times a downpour.
Each team had its chances, Yokota with five corner kicks and ASIJ with a handful of opportunities in front of Panthers freshman keeper Sarah Cronin, but came away empty. Gildart said he was not satisfied with his team’s play in the first half.
“Passion. Passion. I was saying at halftime, passion. Who wants it?” he said of his halftime talk.
Finally, Mustangs midfielder Kiyomi Powell, who’ll attend the Naval Academy in the fall, sent a deep ball toward Yokota’s net. Cronin appeared at first to have stopped it, but the ball slipped under her legs to Szerdahelyi, who had a clear path to the goal.
Yokota coach Nicole Angel said things might have been different were it not for the slick conditions on the field. “It’s unlucky,” she said.
The Far East Division I Tournament is Monday-Thursday at Yokosuka Naval Base.
In other district championships, Kubasaki’s and Kadena’s baseball teams found themselves waiting a second day to complete the Okinawa best-of-three finals because of rain.
Game 2 was called off both Wednesday and Thursday; they said they’d try again Friday, but the weather forecast calls for more rain through the weekend. Kubasaki leads the series 1-0. The Far East Division I Tournament is slated for next Thursday-Saturday at Yokota Air Base, Japan.