By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJune 4, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (June 4, 2019) -- The Zama Middle High School girls' soccer team took home the team's first Far East Tournament championship banner in a decade on May 24, capping an impressive season that capitalized on offensive and defensive strengths.
The team won 3-0 against Yokota Air Base, Japan, which had won the title the past three out of four years, at Misawa Air Base, Japan, said Manuel Duarte, the Zama coach.
"They all came together and peaked at the right time, but it was just a matter of teamwork and lots of just trusting each other and the coach," Duarte said.
The team had a record of 18 wins, three losses and two ties, Duarte said.
They scored an average of 4.52 goals per game while keeping the average number of goals scored against them per game to .74--fewer than one per game, Duarte said. In addition, the team had 14 games where players didn't allow any goals.
"I harp on it and the girls know: Defense wins championships, and we certainly had a really strong defense to go along with the midfield and the offense," Duarte said.
Siobhan Grabski and Kayesha McNeill, co-captains, credited the team's banner win to the dedication of Duarte and Omi Kazumichi, the team's assistant coach.
Duarte's coaching style struck the perfect balance between friendly and serious, said Grabski, a senior who has played on Duarte's soccer teams since eighth grade.
"His coaching style: What is there not to like about it?" Grabski said. "He has a great sense of humor. He's really sarcastic, and that keeps us on our toes. Other than that sense of humor, there's no funny business. So it's really awesome when he can joke with us, but when he's in game mode, it's game mode."
Grabski said it "took [her] breathe away" to win the championship after four years on the team.
"It was the job we had to do, and I knew that this team had the potential to win this year," Grabski said.
McNeill, a junior, said winning the title was "amazing" because the team worked so hard for it.
"In the beginning we were like, kind of a fresh team with a whole bunch of new people, but we clicked really quickly and were able to be successful," McNeill said. "It felt so good."
Aurelia Young, a sophomore playing her first year of soccer, played goalie during the championship game, making five saves.
Young said she learned a lot over the season and plans to play again next year when she moves stateside.
"It was kind of rough in the beginning, but I feel like it got easier for me later on," Young said. "With practice, the whole team got better."
Chloe Sterling, a freshman who was also on the school's championship-winning basketball team this year, said she was particularly happy for Grabski and Duarte because they have worked hard for years for a championship win.
Sterling said she appreciates Duarte's strengths as a coach.
"He'll tell you how it is straight up, and tell you what you need to improve on and what you need to do," Sterling said. "You can tell that he really likes the game and he really wants to help you, and when he puts you in a position, it's for your greater good. So he really has your best interest in you as a player."
In other Zama Middle High School sports news, the school's boys' soccer team finished third at their Far East Tournament at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
"Every single player showed effort, courage and dedication to achieve this result," said Gaetano "Nino" Campolongo, the team's coach.
In addition, the girls' softball team also placed third at their Far East Tournament at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, said Danny Davis, the team's coach.
"They played hard, had fun and work ed together as a team," Davis said. "I am really proud of them, both as student athletes and as teammates."
The baseball team, meanwhile, placed fifth at their Far East Tournament at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, but won two games--their first of the season, said Dirk Schmiedel, the team's coach.
Players James Sturn and Ethan Meissner received all-tournament awards, Schmiedel said.