MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Yokota High School Panthers girls’ soccer team from Yokota Air Base, Japan, won first place at the girls Division II Far East Soccer Tournament hosted by Matthew C. Perry High School at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 19, 2016.
Yokota played the final game against Osan American High School Cougars girls’ soccer team from Osan Air Base, Korea.
It was an even-zero point game resulting in two, five minute overtime periods.
The game came down to a penalty-kick shootout at the goal. The two teams went head-to-head trading off kickers.
After the fifth kicker, the score remained tied at three points. The Panthers scored and won the game 4-3.
“We traveled down here and thought we were ready to play, but Monday showed us a different story,” said Matt Whipple, Yokota High School Ladies Panthers soccer team coach.
Whipple said at the height of the competition they saw something they were not ready for, and the Panthers came away with two losses on the first day.
“I was really impressed with the girls on Monday night,” said Whipple. “After having a miserable day, we regrouped, had a team dinner and decided that there is still time to turn this thing around.”
The second day’s efforts produced all wins and got the team a spot in the next day’s playoffs.
“We started off as the underdogs and people thought we weren’t going to make it,” said Regina Dukat, a striker from the Panthers. “But after the very first day everything clicked, we started working together, communicating and we started slowly gaining our momentum, and it just never stopped.”
The Panthers won both games in the playoffs sending them to the finals on the last day, and ultimately, to the final game against the Osan Cougars.
“The last game was really stressful, and Osan had a really good defense,” said Catharine Funk, a defensive midfielder on the Panthers. “They deserved to be there just as much as us.”
The Cougars worked hard as a team and they wouldn’t have wanted to go to the championships with anyone else said Michele Thompson, goalkeeper for Osan Cougars.
“Our girls worked hard throughout the season and this was the big tournament,” said Sung Plourde, Osan Cougars coach. “I’m proud of my kids, they fought all the way.”
The Far East Girls Division II Soccer Tournament is the biggest event that the Department of Defense Pacific school teams and International School teams have to look forward to every year, said Matthew Barker, this year’s Far East tournament director, coordinator and teacher at M.C. Perry High School.
“The Far East Tournament, regardless Division I-Division II, you could almost say is the equivalent of the National Championship, maybe State Championship,” said Barker. “In terms of importance, for the schools its’ bragging rights and for the ladies it’s the biggest event of the year, because after this, the season’s over.”