Perry boys to try for third straight title
En route home from a practice Monday, the coaching father asked his senior star son: “Well, you ready for Far East next week?”
“I don’t want next week to come yet,” the son replied.
“Because I don’t want it to be over.”
Gaku Lange has reason to feel that way. The slender senior striker has been the straw that stirs the Matthew C. Perry Samurai boys soccer team’s drink since 2011. He’s racked up 138 goals and 67 assists and Perry has won two Far East Division II Tournament titles in that span.
The Samurai go for a third straight title and fourth overall in school history starting Monday in what is the last hurrah for Lange and four other senior starters: Eric Saiki, Martin Ziola, Calvin Barker and Sam Hess.
“The seniors are hitting the mark when after Far East, it’s graduation and moving on to the next thing,” said Lange’s father and coach, Mark, who has told his seniors to not lament because it’s ending, but enjoy every last moment of the week.
“That’s what we’re going to do, enjoy the moments, show up and play football,” Mark Lange said.
While Zama looms as the main threat to Perry’s title reign, Mark Lange says he has “a lot of respect” for all the teams in the tournament, but the Samurai are hoping to make more history.
“We’re on a mission for that fourth star, and three in a row would be pretty special,” he said. “It will come down to … who can play well.”
Far East tournaments run for four days this year, girls D-II at Robert D. Edgren, boys Division I at Kadena and girls D-I at Kubasaki. Forecasts call for rain all week on Okinawa, cloudy skies with showers at Iwakuni and cloudy to partly cloudy skies at Misawa.
Another team flush in seniors is Seoul American’s boys, who along with Christian Academy Japan and host and defending champion Kadena seem the main challengers for the D-I crown.
Falcons coach Steve Boyd has eight seniors, led by HoKyong Adkins and his 27 goals, “but it’s not do or die,” he said, adding that the program has been “on the upswing” for four years and has gotten solid contributions from Yongsan Garrison’s youth soccer program.
“This is a solid team,” better than the one that won in 2011, Boyd said. “On any given day, we can compete with anybody. I just hope my seniors are ready to meet the challenge, avoid sickness and injury, and we should be there when it counts.”
Another host team, Kubasaki’s girls, enter the girls D-I without second-option striker Sydney Johnson (knee). The Dragons still loom as one of three favorites, including Kanto and DODDS Japan champion Nile C. Kinnick and defending champion American School In Japan.
“Of course, Sydney’s a great player and we’re going to miss her … but I have girls who want to step up, do the best they can and perform well for us,” coach Terry Chumley said.
Those include goalkeeper Harleigh Lewis, whom Chumley calls a “mainstay,” and junior striker Marissa Mesquita, she of 21 goals. “Her ability to score and pass, she’s a very critical element,” she said.
Chumley also hopes the discord that plagued the Dragons in last year’s title match, a 2-0 loss to ASIJ, is behind them. “We have common goals and we’ve been working on supporting and respecting each other, trying to build not a group of individuals, but a team,” Chumley said.
They should get a strong challenge from Kinnick (14-0-2), with Pacific-leading goal-scorer Kaile Johnson (35), a strong midfield and solid goalkeeping in Courtney Bacon; and ASIJ, with senior striker Katey Helwick (19), a two-time Far East co-Golden Boot winner.
The only one of the four Far Easts that appears to be wide open is the girls D-II, in which any one of five teams have the capability to win.
Perry, with its young core of underclassmen including Bobbi Hill (16 goals, 10 assists) and sophomore Ani Erhart (nine, four), is a slight favorite, but defending champion Osan, led by Andrea Carandang’s 15 goals, finished 8-2-1 after an 0-4 start. Also in the mix are Zama and Robert D. Edgren.
“It’s going to be a tough fight, but I think we definitely have a chance,” Samurai coach Suzette Lopez said. “We have a lot of skill and a lot of heart as we did in previous years. I think we’re all closely matched. It’s going to be a good tournament.”