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D-II boys semifinals

AFNORTH looking to end Marymount dynasty

Marymount's Francesco Izzo, left, and SHAPE's Adian Domijan fight for the ball in a Division II semifinal game at the DODDS-Europe soccer championships in Reichenbach, Germany, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Marymount won the game 3-1 and will meet AFNORTH in Saturday's championship game.

REICHENBACH, Germany – Playing for DODDS European championship has become a tradition for the Marymount International boys soccer team.

The Royals have played in every finals since 2010, with a loss to American Overseas School of Rome followed by three straight titles.

The last team besides the Rome rivals to even play in the final?

AFNORTH, which defeated AOSR in 2009 for the championship. The Lions are back this year after disrupting another potential all-Italy final by dropping Naples in the semifinals.

Marymount 3, SHAPE 1: When a brilliant group of 11 seniors left after winning a third straight European title last year, the future of the Marymount dynasty was uncertain.

The future has arrived now.

The new-look Royals earned a shot at a fourth straight Division II title with a thorough win over the Spartans. It was the second straight year Marymount ousted SHAPE in the semifinals, including last year's 7-2 romp.

The Royals return just three players from last year's title squad, a group headlined by versatile sophomore Lotanna Mba. But Mba revealed a secret: most of this year's team was cut from the squad last spring, squeezed out by the incumbent seniors. All they needed was a chance, and a little guidance from Mba, their young but experienced leader.

Mba said the team has found a way to capture the exuberance of the newcomers and "transfer that energy" to the postseason push.

"We think we've done a great job with the new team," Mba said. "The pressure has been enormous, but we've managed."

Sophomore Piorico Diego scored twice for the Royals, while Mba scored one.

AFNORTH 5, Naples 1: After washing out in the semifinals of last year’s DODDS-Europe soccer tournament, the boys of AFNORTH roared their way into this year’s final with a convincing victory over the Wildcats.

The Lions’ two scores in the game’s first three minutes seemed to shake Naples’ defense awake, but by then the tone of the match was already set.

“I think they might have been a little bit asleep when they started and we took advantage of that, scored some goals,” said AFNORTH sophomore Logan Harliss. “I knew from then, we had the lead so we could coast with it.”

Naples’ sole flash of life came early in the second half, when junior Miguel De Frutos stormed down the right side to get one back for the Wildcats. But Naples’ go-to chip-and-run offense was largely ineffective against AFNORTH’s speedy defense.

The match was a far cry from AFNORTH’s morning quarterfinal against the American Overseas School of Rome, which the Lions won on a last-second goal – the same way they lost last year’s matchup against AOSR in the semis.

After that exhilarating win, “I was expecting a close game” against Naples, AFNORTH junior Claudius Karich said. But that wasn’t to be.

“I think we got a little lucky, but we played the best we’ve ever played this year.”

broome.gregory@stripes.com; millham.matt@stripes.com

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