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Sophomore Abigail Irwin is one of two players vying for Kubasaki's girls soccer team's goalkeeping job.
Sophomore Abigail Irwin is one of two players vying for Kubasaki's girls soccer team's goalkeeping job. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
Sophomore Abigail Irwin is one of two players vying for Kubasaki's girls soccer team's goalkeeping job.
Sophomore Abigail Irwin is one of two players vying for Kubasaki's girls soccer team's goalkeeping job. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
Senior Kian Smith of Kadena's boys soccer team will take his talents to England next year, with Eye-to-Eye Academy of York.
Senior Kian Smith of Kadena's boys soccer team will take his talents to England next year, with Eye-to-Eye Academy of York. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
Sophomore midfielder Megan Kirby had 13 goals and eight assists last season for Kadena's girls soccer team. The Panthers outscored opponents 140-8 and went 27-2 last season, but finished third in Far East Division I Tournament.
Sophomore midfielder Megan Kirby had 13 goals and eight assists last season for Kadena's girls soccer team. The Panthers outscored opponents 140-8 and went 27-2 last season, but finished third in Far East Division I Tournament. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
Senior goalkeeper-turned-midfielder Korina Radel had 25 goals and nine assists after coming out of the net for Kadena's girls soccer team last season.
Senior goalkeeper-turned-midfielder Korina Radel had 25 goals and nine assists after coming out of the net for Kadena's girls soccer team last season. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
Senior Caleigh Garcia, Yokota midfielder, was named Most Valuable Player, Golden Boot and Best Offensive Player for last year's Far East Division II tournament champion Panthers. She had 41 goals and 18 assists last season.
Senior Caleigh Garcia, Yokota midfielder, was named Most Valuable Player, Golden Boot and Best Offensive Player for last year's Far East Division II tournament champion Panthers. She had 41 goals and 18 assists last season. (Greg Holladay/Special to Stripes)
Monique Wilson is part of a Yokota girls soccer defensive core that returns all its members and starting goalkeeper from last year's Far East Division II Tournament champion Panthers.
Monique Wilson is part of a Yokota girls soccer defensive core that returns all its members and starting goalkeeper from last year's Far East Division II Tournament champion Panthers. (Greg Holladay/Special to Stripes)
Senior midfielder Mary Sarantakes is one of a handful of returnees for Daegu girls soccer.
Senior midfielder Mary Sarantakes is one of a handful of returnees for Daegu girls soccer. (Sunny Yang/Special to Stripes)
Senior midfielder Natalie Garrido returns to Daegu, with a power right-leg kick that can make most set pieces a scoring opportunity for the Warriors.
Senior midfielder Natalie Garrido returns to Daegu, with a power right-leg kick that can make most set pieces a scoring opportunity for the Warriors. (Sunny Yang/Special to Stripes)
Sophomore Maggie Donnelly had 44 goals and 18 assists last season for Far East Division I runner-up Nile C. Kinnick.
Sophomore Maggie Donnelly had 44 goals and 18 assists last season for Far East Division I runner-up Nile C. Kinnick. (Emma Stevens/Special to Stripes)
Senior Ella Eisenhardt had 36 goals and 14 assists last season for Far East Division I runner-up Nile C. Kinnick.
Senior Ella Eisenhardt had 36 goals and 14 assists last season for Far East Division I runner-up Nile C. Kinnick. (Emma Stevens/Special to Stripes)
Senior Micayla Feltner led Matthew C. Perry with 37 goals last season.
Senior Micayla Feltner led Matthew C. Perry with 37 goals last season. (Kevin Rossiter/Special to Stripes)
Sophomore Arielle Stickar returns as a key midfielder for Humphreys girls soccer team.
Sophomore Arielle Stickar returns as a key midfielder for Humphreys girls soccer team. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

A slew of Pacific girls soccer stars are back for encore performances and appear primed to lead their teams to prominence.

Headlining that scoring pack are the reigning Most Valuable Players of their respective Far East tournaments, Caleigh Garcia of Far East Division II champion Yokota, and Ava Vander Louw of Division I champion American School In Japan.

Garcia had 41 goals and 18 assists and Vander Louw 21 goals. Also back on scene are Zama’s Kayesha McNeill (42 goals), Nile C. Kinnick’s Maggie Donnelly (44) and Ella Eisenhardt (36) and Matthew C. Perry’s Micayla Feltner (37), among others capable of such fireworks.

“I got really lucky,” Red Devils coach Nico Hindie said of keeping Donnelly, a sophomore, and senior Eisenhardt from the team that placed second to ASIJ in D-I.

Kinnick also kept Jenny Lynch at midfield and Maryana Castro on defense, with a strong core of newcomers ready to take the torch from Eisenhardt and Donnelly, who’s due to transfer after this season.

Will that be enough to dethrone ASIJ, loaded with veterans from the 2018 D-I title team?

“They’re a good program; last year, they were fantastic,” Hindie said, adding that Vander Louw “really tore us up at Far East.” The Red Devils begin the season by hosting ASIJ and Zama next Monday and Tuesday, then visit D-II champion Yokota on Wednesday.

Hindie called that schedule “a test to see where everybody’s at. Trial by fire. Three of the better teams, two champions and a very tough Zama team back to back to back.”

ASIJ opened its season Thursday by blanking Sacred Heart 6-0, led by Vander Louw with two goals.

Yokota also has a hard first week; the Panthers play ASIJ in addition to Kinnick. And Yokota saw 75 goals and 39 assists graduate last June. “A team just starting to figure out how to come together and our biggest tests are a week from now,” coach Matt Whipple said.

Garcia was named D-II MVP, Best Offensive Player and Golden Boot winner last May. She might not have the same offensive complements Yokota had a season ago, but the entire defense and goalkeeper Emily Taynton returns and Garcia says she’s confident the Panthers can do well.

“It’s going to be the same, if not better than last year,” Garcia said. “We have a pretty good shot at competing with the other teams. A lot of new people and key returners; definitely going to be a fun season.”

While the faces in the midfield and up front have changed, “the work ethic for the team remains the same,” Whipple said. “We have a group of young ladies working hard to achieve a common goal.”

Feltner and the Samurai welcome a new coach, Shannon Maury, a Naval Academy graduate, and retain a core of veterans who could help Perry challenge for its second D-II title in three years. The lineup is bolstered by the transfer of junior Sora Thompson from Zama.

McNeill is part of a high-scoring threesome, including Siobhan Grabski (17 goals, 22 assists) and coach Manny Duarte’s daughter Meridian (21, 17). All told, the Trojans have nine returning players.

One Division I darkhorse could be Humphreys, which saw an eight-win improvement over the 2017 season and unleashed a midfielder, Arielle Stickar, whom new Blackhawks coach Jonathan Brooks – who transferred from Seoul American – speaks volumes about.

“Great feet, powerful shot; she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Brooks said of Stickar, who had 11 goals last season.

Partnering with Stickar will be freshman Ava Young, who’s “not quite as fast” as Stickar’s 2018 wingman Hayden McMillan, “but she’s very good on the ball, she has great ball skills and she’s a very smart player.”

Whether Kadena can recover from losing 78 goals and 59 assists from a team that lost just twice and outscored foes 140-8 is hard to say. In addition to the three players who notched those totals, the Panthers must settle on a keeper to replace departed Sakura Wilson.

Returning forwards Korina Radel and Megan Kirby, who combined for 38 goals last season, “will be striking it in back on the net,” coach Abe Summers said. “The rest, I’m not sure.”

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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