Fresh off adding a second star to the Samurai FC crest on their jerseys with their second Far East Division II Tournament title in four years, Matthew C. Perry’s boys soccer team continues its journey away from enduring a 2-11 season here, a 4-12 season there in the early- to mid-2000s.

“I keep reminding myself, it wasn’t too long ago, we were the cones that everybody else ran around,” said coach Mark Lange, who’s overseen Perry’s rise from doormat to domination in 10 years. “I’ll never forget those days.”

Based on this season’s start - 9-0 with 29 goals in winning the Dolphin Cup last month in Nagoya and the Perry Cup last weekend - more big things may be in the offing. The Samurai girls, after capturing their first D-II title, are unbeaten as well at 3-0.

“Perry has turned the corner,” Lange said, adding there’s now an expectation in soccer at the tiny Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni school.

“We expect to win. That’s the mindset. Work hard and try to win a star. That’s the expectation. The kids believe and have bought into that expectation. And the girls finally struck gold and now they’re looking for a second star.”

To equal or better the school’s record-setting 2012 showing, a combined 51-9-6 with 246 goals – 192 by the boys alone – they’ll have to do it without Pacific single-season record-setting boys goal scorer Tyelor Apple, and the girls without All-Far East players Lexie Krenek and Anne Naseer.

But the boys retain some firepower in junior Gaku Lange (44 goals), the coach’s son, and in back with senior Yasuki Milsop at sweeper. For the girls, junior Courtney Beall returns after missing most of last season, along with 25-goal-scoring senior Sam Herritt.

“We’ve had a long line of players come through here who all believed they were part of something bigger than themselves,” Lange said.

Bigger is also the hope for last year’s Far East Division I boys runner-up Nile C. Kinnick, 2010 champion Seoul American (which finished third last year) and fourth-place Kadena. Each of their coaches say their teams possess the experience and depth needed for a deep run at both league and Far East titles.

“If we don’t do it, we’ll be close, and it won’t be for lack of heart,” second-year Kadena head coach Nelson Youngblood said of his senior-laden team led by All-Far East player Greg Borgert and bolstered by Osan American transfer Tyrone Boylan.

Told that his Red Devils’ D-I finals loss to Christian Academy Japan was just their first time in the title match, Kinnick coach Robert Tiffany said: “Let’s see what we can do to change that.” His team features the Yoder threesome of senior Zach, junior Branden and sophomore keeper Brady.

Seoul American for the second straight year has 14 returners, nine with Far East experience and seven of them starters, including senior and junior strikers David Voelker and Andrew Clark.

On the girls D-I side, reigning champion Kubasaki, which completed its climb from fourth to third to second to first from 2009-12, must take the field for the first time since 2008 without 112-goal career scorer Liz Fabila. They’re led by their core foursome of Courtney and Stephanie Dowse, Marissa Mesquita and Makayla Palazzo.

The Dragons are rebuilding “a little,” second-year coach Annie Mudd said. Graduations and transfers made her “really nervous, but a lot of girls stepping up from JV are showing a lot of potential.”

Pacific goal-scoring leader Kaile Johnson (35), last year’s Far East co-Golden Boot winner, headlines a Kinnick girls team that’s expected to push the Dragons along with 2011 champion American School In Japan.

author picture
Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now