KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Before the tournament even began, Ramstein and Patch expected to face each other in the DODDS-Europe Division I girls’ soccer final and they expected it to be close, hinging perhaps on a stroke of luck or a little mistake.
The critical moment Thursday came early in the second half, when Ramstein’s Hunter Pace and Ebony Madrid combined for a goal that bamboozled even them. The score put the Royals up 1-0 – enough to take home the 2014 championship.
“We each went into the competition knowing that we were going to play each other because of how talented each team is,” sophomore striker Madrid said.
But that knowledge didn’t make facing the Panthers in the final any easier.
In round robin play a day earlier, Patch edged Ramstein on penalty kicks after tying 2-2 in regulation. In their sole regular season meeting in April, Ramstein came out on top with a razor-thin 4-3 victory.
So coming into the final Thursday, “We were all biting nails,” Madrid said. “Half the team couldn’t even sleep last night. We were just – we didn’t know how it was going to go today.”
Patch didn’t know either, senior midfielder Amber Garcia said. They tried to stay relaxed, knowing they’d have to pressure Ramstein constantly to have a chance, “because we knew that Ramstein was going to come out for us because we won the last game.”
The teams seemed to share a game plan through the first half as the two sides traded trips into each other’s territory. Neither was able to draw blood, and they headed into halftime knotted in a scoreless tie.
The goals the two teams trade “they’re usually all flukes” or the result of mistakes, Garcia said after the game. At least that’s been the case in the past – and it was so here.
In the ninth minute of the second half, Ramstein senior Pace shot a high lob off her left foot. In the drizzling rain, Patch goalie Goldie Bougher came out to intercept the ball on a bounce as Madrid streaked in to try to finish it off.
The ball bounced high, and Bougher could do little more than watch it sail over her head and into the goal behind her.
“Ramstein’s such a good team and we’re such a good team, it’s kind of hard to break through,” Garcia said. “And so when there’s an opportunity of an open shot, it’s taken and usually ends up in a goal.”
Patch’s offense frantically tried to get one back, “but after the goal we kind of just lost it and it was kind of hard for us to get back.”
Ramstein’s one goal was enough for the win and their second DODDS championship in three years.
“The beautiful part about playing Patch is that … they’re so humble when they win but they’re such a respectable team to play against that it’s a beautiful game whether we win or lose,” Pace said.
But because of the history between the two teams – Patch edged them out in last year’s championship game – this win had a special flavor for Ramstein.
“It’s a little bit sweeter,” Pace said.