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At the core of Taegu American’s three sports championships (Far East volleyball and basketball and DODDS-Korea softball) were seniors Lynnette Grant, Tamara “Tank” Hancock and Kelli Cox.

At the core of Taegu American’s three sports championships (Far East volleyball and basketball and DODDS-Korea softball) were seniors Lynnette Grant, Tamara “Tank” Hancock and Kelli Cox. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Lynnette Grant, Tamara “Tank” Hancock and Kelli Cox entered their final year at Taegu American intent on changing the perception of the school’s athletic programs.

“Everybody always said Taegu would come in third. That was our place. The Taegu Curse,” Grant said. “It kind of got annoying."

What the “core” group of players did was win every championship for which they competed: Far East Class A titles in volleyball and basketball and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea softball crown.

Only once had Taegu American’s volleyball team even shared a KAIAC title, and only once, in 2001, did a Warriors girls basketball team reach a Class A title game, which it lost.

The three seniors said they simply were tired of losing.

“Before … the expectation was to just try to do your best,” Cox said. “This year, we wanted to … be the best.”

This year of change began with volleyball. Grant and Cox paced the Warriors to a school-first: season sweeps of Seoul Foreign and Seoul American as well as the Class A title.

Cox, Grant and Hancock called Taegu’s 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 victory over Seoul American the turning point that fueled the school’s yearlong run.

“Once we beat Seoul American,” Grant said, “we knew that we could do anything.”

“Knowing you can win — that’s huge,” athletics director and basketball coach Michelle Chandler said.

“They did learn how to win, and more valuable, they learned what it takes to win,” volleyball coach Jennifer Sharp said. “One of my biggest hopes for these girls was that they would give it their all ... so they never had to look back with regrets and wonder, ‘What if? What if I tried a little harder? What was I really capable of?’”

From there, it “snowballed,” Cox said. “Every time we did something, it raised the expectation bar even higher.”

In basketball, the Warriors were a school-best 14-4 in the regular season and 24-9 overall.

With Hancock, Cox and league MVP Grant leading the way, the Warriors bulldozed their way to an unbeaten Class A run, culminating with a Feb. 24 come-from-behind 38-28 championship victory over Faith Academy.

Grant scored eight of her 17 points in the fourth quarter, rallying Taegu from a 25-16 deficit.

“She refused to lose and because of that, we all didn’t want to lose, either,” Hancock said.

Grant secured MVP honors in both the volleyball and basketball tourneys. But, she stressed, “those MVP awards belong to the team. I couldn’t be out there doing it all by myself.”

Each of the seniors nursed injuries during the basketball season; Grant’s knee and ankle ached so much she considered not playing softball.

But a few weeks into the softball season, the coaches asked her to return because of injuries to other players. Grant said she “just got back into the feel of it and wanted to play. It turned out well.”

Well enough that she batted .290 and stole 11 bases for the Warriors, who lost their season opener but then went on a 10-2 tear en route to the league title. Hancock batted .311 with 3 home runs and 19 steals; Cox, a pitcher, went 8-2 with a 3.25 ERA while batting .445 with 2 home runs and 21 steals.

And now the school basks in knowing it has shaken the “Taegu Curse.”

“It’s fun to go to school,” said Grant, who will attend Division II Jacksonville State in Alabama and walk on for basketball. “Everybody talks about Taegu sports now.”

Said Hancock, who’ll play on partial scholarship for Division II Central Arizona: “It feels good knowing I can do anything and be part of a winning team.”

Said Cox, who’ll attend New York University on a partial academic scholarship: “Every time we won something, it didn’t settle in until we won the next one. … The feeling is overwhelming.”

Said Chandler: “We hope upcoming freshmen and sophomores will see they’re expected to win now.”

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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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