Over the course of two days (March 10-11), NIS welcomed six other teams for the WJAA HS Boys Soccer tournament – the first tournament for three years due to COVID.
NIS opened proceedings at 8:30 on day 1 against OYIS (Osaka YMCA International School). The support from everyone was gratefully received and spurred the team on. NIS led 1-0 at half-time, although had many chances to put the game away. After the break, the floodgates opened and NIS eventually won 7-1, with goals coming from many positions on the team.
The structure of the seven team tournament meant that finishing first on day 1 gave the team the later start on day 2, so with this in mind, NIS set out in game 2 with the intent to score and not concede, to protect both the points and goal difference. Mission accomplished, and a very well executed game plan against KIUA saw NIS win comfortably 7-0. Again, goals coming from various positions.
Two other very strong teams, FIS (Fukuoka Sharks) and EJ King were also raising eyebrows on day 1, with both teams winning both their matches, it came down to goal-difference to separate the teams. Thankfully, NIS's superior goal difference meant that the top three teams were separated by just two goals (NIS +9, FIS +8 and EJK +7), and NIS headed into day 2 on top of the table, and straight into the semi-finals... by just one goal.
The semi-final on day 2 was against Marist (MBIS) who had recovered well from a disappointing day 1 to beat the team above them in the table to get to the semi-finals. Leading the line aptly was our center forward Xiangxi who, with his 4 goals, helped NIS to a 6-0 victory... and on to the finals. In the other semi-final, FIS edged a tense game against EJ King to edge out 4-2 winners.
In the final, the two top teams, FIS and NIS faced off to play for the championship. The two teams had very contrasting styles and players. FIS were made up of mostly Gr. 12s and were strong, dynamic and liked to send long balls up to their forwards. NIS had a majority of Gr. 9s and played more compactly, preferring to move the ball through midfield before releasing the forwards or wing-backs.
In the end, it was one set piece, a corner from FIS, that separated the two teams, with FIS winning the tight contest, and the championship, 1-0. The keepers on both sides deserve credit – NIS's Kai P. and the keeper for FIS, for helping to keep both teams in contention, with great saves until the final whistle.
NIS HS Boys represented themselves and the school admirably. The whole team can hold their heads up high after scoring 20 goals (the most in the championship) and only conceding twice (the fewest in the championship) from two set plays (a penalty and a corner). Ultimately, sports games are often won by fine margins and so it proved in the WJAA 2023 HS Boys Soccer Competition. Congratulations to FIS on the championship win!
Overall, it was a wonderful two days of soccer and it is great to be able to be back playing again after three years of no, or limited, competition. A huge thank you to Mr. Schnell for organizing a fantastic tournament with fantastic weather. Finally, a huge thank you to the Athletic Council and to everyone (staff, students and parents) who came out to support and cheer on the boys. Every one of you helped make a wonderful atmosphere. Thank you.
Roll on the 2023-24 season!
Coaches Goodman and Radcliffe