3rd time a charm for Stripes' Pacific Athletes of Quarter
For Jarrett Mitchell, Lari Robertson and their respective teams, the third time proved to be the charm where Far East championships were concerned.
The seniors helped Kubasaki football and Daegu High girls volleyball take the final steps to Far East titles after coming up just short the previous two years. For their efforts, Mitchell and Robertson each earn Stars and Stripes Pacific fall sports season Athletes of the Quarter.
“He’s obviously a very gifted athlete in terms of the game’s metrics, but he adds to that a sincere desire to improve on a daily basis,” said Mitchell’s coach of three seasons, Fred Bales. “Every game he’s been a part of, he’s made an impact on every one.”
Mitchell and the Dragons had been stymied the previous two years in the Far East Division I title games at Yokota, 34-6 and 55-8. That streak of futility ended Nov. 9, when the Dragons rallied past Kadena for a 34-31 win in overtime for Kubasaki’s second Far East title.
Along the way, Mitchell set an Okinawa single-game record with 379 yards, third-most in Pacific history, and four touchdowns on just 14 attempts in Kubasaki’s 31-7 win Sept. 28 at Robert D. Edgren.
He also extended his own Okinawa single-season mark to 1,840 yards on 149 attempts, averaging 12.35 per try, with 21 touchdowns. In 2½ seasons, in which Kubasaki won two island titles and reached three D-I title games, Mitchell rushed for 3,990 yards on 357 carries, most of any Kubasaki back in the Far East playoff era.
On the volleyball court, after falling short of Morrison Academy of Taiwan the last two years, Robertson and the Warriors ascended the Far East Division II title throne, beating host Zama American 22-25, 25-13, 25-17, 25-16 in the final on Nov. 7.
“She has developed and matured significantly in the last couple of years,” coach Joanna Wyche said of Robertson, who won Most Valuable Player and Best Hitter awards in both the league and Far East tournaments. “She has definitely stepped up and come alive, and you’ve seen the results as she got on the court.”
Behind Robertson’s totals of 11.5 spike kills, 6.4 defensive digs and 2.3 blocks per match, Daegu went 9-3 in the regular season, sharing the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Blue Division regular-season title with Taejon Christian International. After losing in the first round of the KAIAC Blue tournament, the Warriors stormed back to avenge that defeat against Seoul Foreign, winning the final 16-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-15 and the “if necessary” set 25-18 for the title.
At Far East, Daegu went 7-1 in pool play and turned it on in the playoffs, dropping just one set – the first set in the title contest – in four matches. It’s the fourth D-II title in school history, matching Morrison for the most in tournament history, and the first time in school history that Daegu won the KAIAC tournament, shared the regular-season title and won Far East in the same season.
- COACH/TEAM/CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNERS OF THE QUARTER: Tom McKinney coached a Kadena cross-country team that almost completely ran the table during the regular season and Far East, winning everything but two girls team regular-season meets. Then at Far East, the Panthers repeated their D-I overall school banner and won everything there was to win, with Andrew Kilkenny and Ana Hernandez repeating their individual golds. Then came something never done before: Kadena placed its four team relay pairs 1-2-3-4 on the second and last day of the meet.
- PROGRAM OF THE QUARTER: American School In Japan. The Mustangs, behind senior QB David Hernandez, recorded their first unbeaten football season since 1981, won their third straight Far East D-I volleyball tournament on the strength of four-time All-Far East selection Liz Thornton and tournament Most Valuable Player Mia Weinland, captured the Far East tennis tournament overall D-I school banner behind boys singles champion Yosuke Higashi and the overall school banner in the Asia-Pacific Invitational cross-country meet.
- MOST IMPROVED TEAM: Coaches Kelly Wigton and Chrismond Raga, coach-on-the-floor senior setter Kristina Baldwin and Zama American volleyball, which has risen from the ashes of a last-place DODDS Japan finish two years ago to take second in the DODDS Japan and Far East D-II tournaments.
- MOST IMPROVED PROGRAM: Daegu, which in addition to its first D-II tournament title since 2010 also regained the D-II crown in football it had last won in 2011, after a sub-par 2012 season.
- BEST NON-FAR EAST ATHLETES: Seoul Foreign, not able to play in Far East tournaments because of its affiliation with the Asia-Pacific Activities Conference, bids farewell to senior tennis stars Jeffrey Kim and Jae-hyun Kim (not related) after four years in which they captured four each APAC and KAIAC tournament MVP awards. Jeffrey was 90-0 in that span, while Jae-hyun went 87-2 but avenged each of those defeats, so the two beat everybody they played in their high school careers.
- FOOTBALL GAME OF THE QUARTER/BEST CLUTCH PERFORMANCE: Kubasaki and Kadena saved the best for last in that overtime thriller. The ending – a quarterback sneak by DeQuan Alderman on second down in Kubasaki’s overtime series – might not have happened were it not for senior Tyshon Butler. The senior put the Dragons on his back, rushing 11 times for 146 yards and a touchdown and set up another in just the last two quarters.
- TENNIS MATCH OF THE QUARTER: Kubasaki’s Brenden Neu and Kadena’s Nicholas Lay went at it week after week, hammer and tongs, throughout the season, with 10 of their 12 matches going to a third and deciding set. Their Oct. 10 marathon at Kadena’s Risner Tennis Complex topped them all, especially the third set, with Neu prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 14-12.
- VOLLEYBALL MATCH OF THE QUARTER: This was the spiking equivalent of a heavyweight bout, with Matthew C. Perry and Zama trading kills, blocks, dinks, digs and aces for what seemed to be an eternity in the DODDS Japan tournament knockout match on Oct. 26 at Yokota. The Samurai finally prevailed 25-22, 24-26, 26-24, 21-25, 15-13.
- PLAY OF THE QUARTER: In a Kanto Plain regular-season match on Oct. 10 at ASIJ’s Mustang Valley, the aforementioned Weinland got ready to unleash one of her trademark heavy-duty, cast-iron, pile-driving spike kills that threaten to rip open holes in the opponent’s court … right into the waiting hands and arms of Zama middle blocker Erica Howie down past Weinland’s feet on ASIJ’s side. The Mustangs won 25-10, 25-7, 25-14, but for a brief moment, the Trojans had much to celebrate.