With the annual Far East High School Soccer Tournaments just two weeks away, coaches throughout the Pacific are spending the next two weekends evaluating bench players and making tough choices on who to include in their 15-player tournament rosters.
Some coaches face some serious roster-trimming jobs. Others, faced with injuries, say they’re using the next two weekends to “audition” younger players who otherwise might not have a chance to travel to Far East.
Four players vied for the Yokota boys’ last two roster spots during Friday’s 8-1 victory at Matthew C. Perry.
“We’re getting a chance to look at people who don’t start out of necessity,” coach Tim Pujol said of defenders Chris Nixon, Mark Hunkins and Matt Samdahl and midfielder Michael Estacion. “They all played all 80 minutes. We’re getting a good look at them.”
They played in place of missing starters Riki Byrnes, Jon Bernardo, Tony Presnell and Vince Nixon, who were taking the SAT.
Other teams, suffering injuries, are making do with what they have. Zama’s girls traveled to Edgren without four players sidelined by bad ankles and shins. The team is also missing sophomore Aubrey Ashliman, who underwent knee surgery April 22.
“We have to go with whatever’s available,” coach Vanessa Little said of her roster, which has just 16 healthy players.
Perry’s boys roster is right at the Far East tournament limit of 15, but that’s largely due to small enrollment numbers. Only 13 are high school-age players; two eighth-graders received waivers to give the Samurai a full roster.
“That makes it easy for me. I don’t have to make any tough choices,” Perry coach and athletics director Mark Lange said.
Samurai girls surprise Yokota; ASIJ clinches KantoThree days ago, Yokota (14-2-2) handed American School In Japan (9-0-1) the lone blemish on the Mustangs’ otherwise perfect record and became the first team to score on ASIJ in a 1-1 tie.
On Friday, Perry’s girls (7-5-3) sprung a surprise, locking down Yokota’s high-scoring offense in a 0-0 draw.
“The girls played really hard. We had a good week of practice,” Samurai coach Chris Anderson said, adding that two losses last weekend to Zama “taught us to step up the physical aspect of our game.”
“I’m very proud of them. Yokota is a very strong team. (Junior midfielder) Lauryn Thomas really knows how to develop the field and control the tempo of her team,” he said.
Yokota outshot the Samurai 17-8. “We just couldn’t finish,” Yokota coach Matt Whipple said, adding that the Samurai have a chance to “clean up” during the Far East Class A Tournament May 18-21 at Iwakuni.
ASIJ clinched the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools girls title for the second straight year, thanks to a 3-1 victory Friday at Nile C. Kinnick.
Takahashi blossomingKenta Takahashi of Yokota (13-2) is proving his mettle as a goal scorer. The senior is better known for being part of the two-time Far East Tennis Tournament boys doubles champion team, but he scored four times against the Samurai (3-13), running his season total to 11.
“He’s stepping up offensively,” Pujol said of the third-year forward. “We’ve been counting on him and he’s blossomed into a good scorer.”