American School In Japan and Nile C. Kinnick continue to make meeting in the Far East High School Division I Girls Volleyball Tournament final a regular happening.

The Mustangs and Red Devils punched tickets Wednesdy to their third straight championship match, winning their semifinal matches over Academy of Our Lady of Guam and Seisen International, each in straight sets. ASIJ and Kinnick play for the title at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

ASIJ won the two previous finals, in four sets a year ago, also at Naval Base Guam’s Charles King Fitness Center, and in three sets in 2011 at Seoul American. Kinnick coach Tony San Nicolas feels his team has what it takes to take care of business this time.

“We believe so,” he said, adding that the Red Devils’ results thus far has been “more of a team effort collectively,” particularly the play of middle blocker Audri Salter, outside hitter Kaile Johnson and setter Kelly Osterbrink.

They’ll be going up against a Mustangs team featuring vaunted All-Far East middle blockers Mia Weinland and Liz Thornton, the latter a two-time D-I Most Valuable Player. The Mustangs went 14-0 in the Kanto Plain regular season; only Kinnick managed to win a set from them.

To beat ASIJ, one must minimize mistakes, San Nicolas said, and be consistent with free-ball passing to get it to the middle.

“Keeping composure” is another key, San Nicolas said. “When you have two teams playing at such a high level, it becomes a mental game. You concentrate and focus on the task at hand.”

ASIJ is seeking its seventh D-I title in school history and fifth since 2006. Kinnick is chasing its first championship in school history.

Zama, Daegu top D-II volleyball field Two of the three teams expected to slug it out for Division II girls volleyball honors square off at 8 a.m. Thursday with a spot in the championship match at noon on the line.

Daegu, seeking its fourth D-II title but first since 2010, swept Matthew C. Perry in three sets on Wednesday, while Zama, chasing its first Far East title of any kind since 1997 and first D-II title in school history, survived Osan American in four sets.

“They want it pretty badly. They’ve been fighting hard,” second-year coach Kelly Wigton said of her Trojans, adding they’ve been riding a tide of court communication and solid play from junior middle blocker Katrina Reid deep into the double-elimination playoffs.

Wigton said she’s optimistic headed into Thursday. “If they give it 100 percent, I know the points will come.”

Daegu earlier Wednesday swept the other pre-tournament favorite, Matthew C. Perry, which must win four times on Thursday to capture the first D-II title in school history.

Gadsden struggles but reaches girls singles final She called it “about the worst match I’ve ever played,” but it was good enough for two-time defending Far East Tennis Tournament girls singles champion Chloe Gadsden of Guam High to reach her third straight final.

Gadsden downed Seisen International’s Alicia Tiffany in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5. But it was a struggle, as Tiffany used a defensive, soft-shot strategy to offset Gadsden’s power game, and Gadsden said afterward that “I think I let her get into my head.”

“She kept me off my rhythm. My whole game was off,” said Gadsden, who will face American School In Japan’s Lili Kobayashi for the title at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. “I’ll have to be more mentally tough and not let things get into my head.”

Forecast calls for rain in the morning, during which the five finals are scheduled to be played.

American School In Japan’s Yosuke Higashi faces former champion Kent Shikama of St. Mary’s International in the boys singles.

Higashi and teammate Len Kamemoto take on teammates Kentaro Ishihara and Luke Yamasaki in the boys doubles final.

DODDS has one other gold-medal hope, in girls doubles, as sisters Kristin and Alex Howard of Kadena are due to battle Kobayashi and Nana Yoshimura of ASIJ for the title.

ASIJ teammates will also play each other in the mixed doubles final, Ishihara and Yoshimura taking on Yamasaki and Teri Cho.

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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.

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