Kubasaki's defense paves way to title
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – With senior striker Sydney Johnson, among others, shelved or hobbled by injuries, Kubasaki needed a spark from the player the Dragons consider the team’s backbone.
Junior goalkeeper Harleigh Lewis responded to the challenge. She allowed one goal the entire week and recorded five shutout wins to help Kubasaki regain the Far East High School Girls Division I Soccer Tournament title it last won two years ago.
“She was an outstanding goalkeeper, absolutely the best,” coach Terry Chumley said after the Dragons dethroned defending champion American School In Japan, outgunning the Mustangs 3-1 in a penalty-kick shootout in Thursday’s final at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium.
It was the latest installment of what’s become the tournament’s most regular rivalry. The two teams have met for the D-I title the last four years, with each winning twice, each time by close margins.
“They dared to win,” Kubasaki athletics director Fred Bales said. “They were resolute the whole week. I saw no dropoff from the first match all the way to the end.”
It was also the completion of a turnaround of a Kubasaki team that began the season in turmoil. Chumley entered the fray in late March after the team’s coach, Rob Loyd, stepped down for undisclosed reasons.
From that point, the Dragons (14-2-1) unified under Chumley and kept their eyes on one goal, which they accomplished Thursday. “All of our hard work finally paid off,” said midfielder Alexis Townsend, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Thursday’s final was played at first in a steady, light rain, which became a full-blown downpour as the minutes melted away. “A lot of players were slipping on the field; both teams were equally affected,” Chumley said.
It came down to a penalty-kick shootout. Marissa Mesquita, Ami Eldridge and Maddie Trumble each found the back of the net for Kubasaki; ASIJ replied only with Golden Boot winner Katey Helwick’s PK.
“Things work out the way they should,” said Chumley, who’d won three D-I titles in her previous stint as coach, came out of retirement and signed on for – she said – just this season. But now, apparently, she is hedging her bets.
“It’s been a great experience; I’m so happy I took this job. It was like it was meant to be,” Chumley said.
Asked if she would return next season, she said: “I told the girls I’d think about it.”