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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa

Helmets and pads are going back on shelves; the tennis rackets, volleyball nets and cross-country cones are being stashed in supply closets; and the singlets, headgear and basketballs are being rolled out for the winter season.

But for some, putting down fall sports is proving difficult — especially coaches and teams that enjoyed success in last week’s Far East tournaments.

“I tell the kids, next season starts Sunday,” said Denny Hilgar, whose Seoul American Falcons took third place in girls Class AA volleyball.

“You close one box and open another,” Hilgar said. “I know the kids are going into other sports and activities; I keep it [volleyball] on the back burner.”

Hilgar will return three starters, including junior hitters Destinee’ Harrison and Liz Gleaves, from a team that became the first from DODEA to earn the top seed entering Class AA single-elimination play. The best may be yet to come, Hilgar said.

“We’re working toward next year. The kids who are returning saw what it takes. Doing as well as we did, it plants that seed. We’ve played with the cream of the crop. And we can do it again,” Hilgar said.

He’s not alone in being excited about next fall’s prospects:

Class AA football champion Kadena returns four of five running backs and five of seven linemen.Class AA cross country champion Seoul American welcomes back four of five girls and three of five boys next fall.Class A girls volleyball champion Daegu loses only two seniors from the group of 10 that suited up for Far East.“Success breeds success, in all sports,” Seoul cross country coach Steve Boyd said. “Kids want to be part of a winning program.”

It takes more, coaches said, than a solid returning class. Coaches need a vision and to impart that vision on their athletes, who in turn must continue to work to keep their edge during the offseason.

“I’m already analyzing for next year,” Daegu volleyball coach Joanna Wyche said. She’s creating report cards on each player, showing how well they’ve done and what they need to do to improve, along with a coaching self-assessment.

As with the Falcons, the best is yet to come for Daegu, Wyche said. “They’ve not reached that highest level,” she said, adding that she wants to “fine tune” what skills they have to the point where they’re “executing in a precise manner that gives you chills. I want them to soar in volleyball.”

Hilgar has several of his players in his physical education class, and says he stresses conditioning, looking at possible summer camps to attend in the States and taking whatever opportunities they get to play volleyball in town. “I remind them of things like that,” he said.

Boyd’s charges have begun going through their paces with the Seoul Track Club, a private organization that has had “a lot to do with our success,” he said.

“If those kids are working out all winter, that makes all the difference in the world. They’ll be so much better,” Boyd said. Those who play a winter or spring sport may be “behind, but if they work out all summer, they’ll cut 30 to 40 seconds off their times.”

Thinking ahead isn’t solely the province of champion teams. Those who did not share those successes have also begun efforts to remedy what ailed them this fall.

Virtually from the moment they boarded the plane from Okinawa back to Tokyo, Yokota football coach Tim Pujol and his staff drew up a depth chart based on what players are projected to move up from junior varsity and return from a varsity team that fell on unusually hard times.

The 10-time defending DODEA Japan and Kanto Plain champions opened 5-0, but lost five of their last seven, didn’t win either league and placed third in the Class AA football playoffs. But six defensive and five offensive starters return, mostly in the interior.

“That’s a pretty good number” for a DODEA school, Pujol said. He’s already begun a weight and conditioning program for those not involved in a winter or spring sport. “We have a lot of things to fix in our program. No time like the present.”

Then, there are those teams that, at least on paper, will enter the 2010 fall season a shell of their former selves.

For example, Kadena tennis for the first time since 2005 will field a team sans three-time Far East boys singles champion Kyle Sprow, two-time doubles champ Elliot Mason and two-time girls singles champion Elissa Mason.

“That’s all part of it,” coach Robert Bliss said, adding that he does return a handful of skilled players, including junior doubles champion Christin Gentz.

“We were lucky to have them [Masons and Sprow] for those years,” Bliss said. “We were thankful to have them, but we understand we can’t have them forever.”

Schedule:JapanBoys basketballFridayE.J. King at ZamaFriday-SaturdayYokota at Edgren; Kinnick at PerrySaturdayE.J. King vs. St. Mary’s at Camp ZamaTuesdayKinnick at Zama, 5:30 p.m.Girls basketballFridayE.J. King at ZamaFriday-SaturdayYokota at Edgren; Kinnick at PerrySaturdayE.J. King vs. Seisen at Camp ZamaMondayASIJ at Seisen, 5:30 p.m.Wednesday, Nov. 25Kinnick at Zama, 5:30 p.m.; Seisen at ISSH, 5:30 p.m.

South KoreaDivision I basketballWednesday, Nov. 18TCIS at YIS-Seoul, 3:30 p.m.FridaySeoul Int’l at YIS-Seoul, 3:30 p.m.SaturdaySeoul Foreign at Seoul Int’l, 9 a.m.TuesdaySeoul Foreign at Korea Int’l, 3:30 p.m.Wednesday, Nov. 25TCIS at Daegu, 3:30 p.m.; YIS-Seoul at Seoul American, 3:30 p.m.Division II basketballFridayCentennial Christian at Indianhead Int’l, 3:30 p.m.; Korea Kent Foreign at Gyeonggi Suwon Int’l, 3:30 p.m.SaturdayGyeonggi Suwon Int’l vs. ICS-Uijongbu at YIS-Seoul; Indianhead Int’l at Korea Kent Foreign; Centennial Christian at ICS-PyongtaekTuesdayICS-Uijongbu at Centennial Christian, 3:30 p.m.Wednesday, Nov. 25Indianhead Int’l at Gyeonggi Suwon Int’l, 3:30 p.m.

GuamWrestling(Wednesday duals begin at 6 p.m.,Saturday duals at 10 a.m.)Wednesday, Nov. 18JFK vs. Notre Dame, Okkodo vs. Southern at site TBD; St. Paul vs. Guam High, Simon Sanchez at Father DuenasSaturdayNotre Dame vs. Okkodo, JFK at GW; Southern vs. Simon Sanchez, St. Paul at Father DuenasWednesday, Nov. 25Okkodo vs. GW, JFK at Guam HighGirls basketball(games at 5:30 p.m.)FridayJFK at AOLG; Okkodo at Guam High; GW at St. John’s; Notre Dame at St. Paul; Southern at Simon SanchezSaturdayOkkodo at St. John’s; Harvest at Simon Sanchez; St. Paul vs. JFK at Sports Complex, Harmon; Guam High at Notre Dame; Southern at GWTuesdayJFK at Okkodo; Simon Sanchez at St. John’s; St. Paul at Harvest; AOLG at Guam High; Notre Dame at GWBaseballThursdayGuam High at Okkodo, 4 p.m.; Father Duenas at GW, 4 p.m.; Simon Sanchez at Southern, 4 p.m.; JFK vs. St. Paul, site TBD, 4 p.m.SaturdaySouthern at GW, 10 a.m.; JFK at Okkodo, 10 a.m.; Simon Sanchez vs. Guam High at GW H.S., Mangilao, 12:30 p.m.; Father Duenas vs. St. Paul at Okkodo H.S., 12:30 p.m.MondayFather Duenas vs. JFK at GW H.S., Mangilao, 4 p.m.TuesdaySimon Sanchez at Okkodo, 4 p.m.; Guam High at GW, 4 p.m.; St. Paul at Southern, 4 p.m.Boys soccer(matches at 4:30 p.m. except where noted)Wednesday, Nov. 18St. Paul at JFK; St. John’s at Guam High; Okkodo at GW, 6 p.m.ThursdaySimon Sanchez vs. Southern at Leo Palace; Father Duenas at HarvestSaturdayGW vs. Southern at Leo Palace; Notre Dame at Okkodo; Simon Sanchez at JFK; Harvest at St. Paul; St. John’s vs. Father Duenas at Leo Palace, 6:30 p.m.Wednesday, Nov. 25St. John’s at St. Paul; JFK at Harvest; Okkodo at Guam High; Southern vs. Notre Dame at GW; Simon Sanchez at GW, 6 p.m.

OkinawaBoys basketballFridayKoza at Kadena, 5 p.m.SaturdayKitanakagusuku at Kadena, 1 p.m.Sunday, Nov. 22Kadena vs. Kubasaki at Ginowan Convention Center, 10 a.m.Girls basketballFridayItoman at Kadena, 7 p.m.SaturdayChatan at Kubasaki, 3 p.m.; Kitanakagusuku at Kadena, 3 p.m.

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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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