KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Friday could have been a horrid end to a trying week for the Yokota girls volleyball team.

The team had gone winless in its first nine matches. The day before the tournament began, the team took in three puppies who would otherwise have been put to sleep and kept them in their billets at Camp Foster, against the rules, providing a built-in distraction.

Then came early Friday morning, when five players were suspended from the team because of a curfew violation, leaving the team with six players for a 15th-place match against Zama American.

Despite all that, the Panthers concluded their week in the Far East High School Girls Class AA Volleyball Tournament by beating the Trojans 25-12, 12-25, 25-20, 25-15. The team was composed of Yokota’s remaining players, three varsity and three from the junior varsity team.

All’s well that ends well?

“I’d rather start well and end well,” coach Troy Oliver said. “But it’s a good note to finish on.”

The victory occured just hours after five of his players, including three starters, were found at Kadena Air Base, well past curfew, trying to visit Yokota’s football team, which played in Saturday’s Rising Sun Bowl against the Kadena Buccaneers of Okinawa.

Class AA tournament teams stayed in Camp Foster’s Bldg. 484. Tournament rules specified that all teams must be in their rooms with lights out at 10 p.m.

Sources told Stars and Stripes that the five players left Bldg. 484 sometime after curfew, went off base and traveled to Kadena’s Shogun Inn, where the football team was billeted.

Sources said the five volleyball players were found at about 3:30 a.m. by Kadena’s security forces. They were not apprehended and not charged and were driven back to Camp Foster.

Team officials would not identify the five players.

Oliver and Yokota’s chaperone, Bonnie Seeley, said they could not confirm what occurred, saying they were still trying to find out what really happened from the players.

Phone calls to Yokota High School, asking what punishment or sanctions were planned for the players, went unreturned.

Kadena 18th Wing Public Affairs officials referred questions about the incident to the DODDS-Okinawa district office. An official there, asking not to be identified, confirmed that “there was an incident” but declined to comment.

Yokota football coach Tim Pujol said none of his players let the volleyball team members into their rooms, and that none were suspended for the Rising Sun Bowl.

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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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