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Zama American's Mallarie Ashliman, left, scrums for the ball with Matthew C. Perry's Karla Stroud, rear, and Kelli Clark during Saturday's DODDS-Japan Soccer League girls match at Sagamihara Housing Area, Japan. Perry scored three goals in the first 10 mimutes, but Zama clawed back to win 4-3. Still, Perry, at 11-5-1, holds its best record after 17 matches in school history, has 63 goals to outstrip its best total for an entire season (56 in 2007) and is taking aim at a school-first Far East Class A title.

Zama American's Mallarie Ashliman, left, scrums for the ball with Matthew C. Perry's Karla Stroud, rear, and Kelli Clark during Saturday's DODDS-Japan Soccer League girls match at Sagamihara Housing Area, Japan. Perry scored three goals in the first 10 mimutes, but Zama clawed back to win 4-3. Still, Perry, at 11-5-1, holds its best record after 17 matches in school history, has 63 goals to outstrip its best total for an entire season (56 in 2007) and is taking aim at a school-first Far East Class A title. (Richard L. Rodgers / Special to Stars and Stripes)

Zama American's Mallarie Ashliman, left, scrums for the ball with Matthew C. Perry's Karla Stroud, rear, and Kelli Clark during Saturday's DODDS-Japan Soccer League girls match at Sagamihara Housing Area, Japan. Perry scored three goals in the first 10 mimutes, but Zama clawed back to win 4-3. Still, Perry, at 11-5-1, holds its best record after 17 matches in school history, has 63 goals to outstrip its best total for an entire season (56 in 2007) and is taking aim at a school-first Far East Class A title.

Zama American's Mallarie Ashliman, left, scrums for the ball with Matthew C. Perry's Karla Stroud, rear, and Kelli Clark during Saturday's DODDS-Japan Soccer League girls match at Sagamihara Housing Area, Japan. Perry scored three goals in the first 10 mimutes, but Zama clawed back to win 4-3. Still, Perry, at 11-5-1, holds its best record after 17 matches in school history, has 63 goals to outstrip its best total for an entire season (56 in 2007) and is taking aim at a school-first Far East Class A title. (Richard L. Rodgers / Special to Stars and Stripes)

From left, junior goalkeeper Kate "Berlin" Cutshall, junior midfielder Heather Hyson (six goals, five assists), senior striker Karla Stroud (25 goals, six assists) and senior striker Danielle Dobson (20 goals, 12 assists) and Matthew C. Perry's girls soccer team, at 11-5-1, holds its best record after 17 matches in school history, has 63 goals to outstrip its best total for an entire season (56 in 2007) and is taking aim at a school-first Far East Class A title.

From left, junior goalkeeper Kate "Berlin" Cutshall, junior midfielder Heather Hyson (six goals, five assists), senior striker Karla Stroud (25 goals, six assists) and senior striker Danielle Dobson (20 goals, 12 assists) and Matthew C. Perry's girls soccer team, at 11-5-1, holds its best record after 17 matches in school history, has 63 goals to outstrip its best total for an entire season (56 in 2007) and is taking aim at a school-first Far East Class A title. (Christopher Anderson / Special to Stars and Stripes)

They’ve already surpassed their school-best victory total from last season, and are on pace to double the school’s highest goal-scoring total, achieved in 2007. That same season, they reached the Far East Class A tournament final. The past two years, they’ve beaten all three of their DODDS-Japan Class AA brethren.

Most other teams would be happy with such accomplishments. But not Matthew C. Perry’s girls soccer team. Their players have two dates — and two very heartbreaking losses — burned into their memory and ready to unfurl at any moment as instant motivation.

They’ll never forget that 2007 final, which the Samurai lost 2-1 on a "golden goal" against Daegu American — on Perry’s home turf.

"I think about that every single day during soccer season," senior striker Karla Stroud says.

Expected to contend again for the Class A title last May, the Samurai instead exited in the first round of the playoffs, 3-2, against eventual champion Faith Academy.

"We were flat coming out. We played our hearts out in the second half," junior goalkeeper Kate "Berlin" Cutshall said. "Faith is an exceptional team. We couldn’t get it done. It was one of those things."

But instead of imploding the team, those disappointments have hardened the players’ resolve to take care of unfinished business.

"I think last year, they came in thinking they were entitled to [win] Far East," fifth-year coach Chris Anderson said. "This year, they believe that if they want something, they’ll have to take it from them. That’s going to be the difference at Far East."

To have Faith win was an "eye-opener" for the team, Anderson said. "They feel this is the year that not only we want to get it done, we need to get it done."

An example of the change in attitude came Thursday, when Perry beat Nile C. Kinnick for the first time in school history, 3-1 at Yokosuka Naval Base. The celebration lasted a few minutes, then attention almost immediately turned to the next match, Friday at Yokota.

"We have to go out thinking like it’s the very last game we ever play, play every match with that same sense of urgency," junior midfielder Heather Hyson said.

At least through one half of the season, the numbers alone tell an eye-popping story.

At 11-5-1, the Samurai have two more victories than their school-best 9-7-4 of last year. Their 63 goals are seven more than the 56 they accumulated in 2007, when they went 8-11-1 and beat Zama American for the first time since 2001.

In addition to beating Kinnick, Perry is 2-0-1 in its last three matches with Yokota, including a 1-1 tie Friday.

Compare the last three seasons to 2004-06, when the Samurai served as what Anderson calls DODDS-Japan’s "proverbial punching bags." One win, one tie in 38 matches and seven total goals.

But more than numbers, it’s the family chemistry that the team has developed, Cutshall said.

"We don’t want to let each other down," she said. "It makes us work that much harder. This year, we have more people who feel the way I do, that we can keep pushing, make the commitment and keep the promise to each other that we’ve made since I was in the eighth grade."

Then there’s the team’s talent. A year ago, Stroud served as the team’s lone finisher; this year, she’s joined by senior transfer Danielle Dobson, from Gulf Breeze High in Pensacola, Fla., and the two have been posting heretofore-unthinkable numbers where Perry is concerned.

Stroud is tied for the region lead with 25 goals and has six assists. Dobson has 20 plus 12 assists; Hyson has six goals and five assists.

"Last year, I didn’t have that support who could cross or pass the ball back and forth, give and go’s," Stroud said. "It’s been easier this year to get past defenders. They have to worry about [Dobson] now."

Hyson says the two options make her a "push-button midfielder."

"When Danielle came, it was heaven-sent," Hyson said. "I just send it up to Danielle or Karla and they just nail it into the net."

Transferring from Florida, a soccer hotbed, was "disappointing, emotional," Dobson said. But soon, she realized Perry would be competitive and swung to it. "I didn’t expect it to be like Florida, but it’s soccer, I’m on a team and we have something to shoot for."

Opposing coaches feel Perry can go a long way. "They have a solid core of seniors, they have chemistry on the field, they have two strikers who work well together and aren’t afraid to shoot," Kinnick coach Nico Hindie said. "Put that all together and you have a solid team."

Shooting for the elusive Class A title will come on Daegu’s home turf, May 18-21 at South Korea’s Camp Walker and Camp Carroll. That only serves as double motivation for a bit of payback.

"I’m excited about that," Stroud said. "I believe in my team. This will go really, really far. I think we can do amazing things."

But getting to that point is "going to take heart, passion, for these 11 girls on the field, to put everything together and play a full 80 minutes, instead of punching in a few goals and feeling like they’re entitled," Anderson said.

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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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