D-II girls soccer championship
Naples claws way to fifth straight championship
Amillia Espiet of Naples gets off a shot despite the pressure of AFNORTH's Hope BonenClark in the Division II final at the DODDS-Europe soccer championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Thursday, May 22, 2014. Naples won 2-0. At right are Kayte Cairns of Naples and AFNORTH keeper Danielle Cunningham.
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The dynasty lives on, now a half-decade strong. And it might not be done yet.
The outgoing and ongoing talent of the Naples Wildcats delivered the program’s fifth consecutive DODDS-Europe Division II girls soccer championship Thursday with a 2-0 defeat of AFNORTH.
“It’s unbelievable. We take each year as it comes,” Naples coach Rebecca Lucy said. “And I’m just so proud of these amazing young women.”
The Lions, a hard-nosed team further solidified by a miraculous 5-4 overtime win over Alconbury in Wednesday’s semifinal, disturbed the finesse-based Wildcats with physical play throughout, furthering a strategy that found success in their 2-1 pool-play loss to Naples. The approach successfully subdued the vaunted Naples offense Thursday, but at a steep cost: the defensive focus had a similar dampening effect on the AFNORTH attack.
“We had to change our strategy,” Lucy said. “We decided that we would just do our best to take opportunities as they came to us and be very creative with our combinations.”
The Wildcats converted two such opportunities. Isabella Lucy scored on a direct kick in the first half, and midfielder Jill Thurston added a goal five minutes into the second half.
“I feel like we did what we had set out to do, which was to play them really strong defensively,” AFNORTH coach Christopher Booth said. “To hold a team like that to those types of numbers, I think, is a testament to our girls.
“Unfortunately we just couldn’t get anything going offensively today.”
Isabella Lucy, the Wildcats’ slender, speedy senior wing, did her best to power through the contact.
“We were protecting ourselves and the ball,” Lucy said. “Once we had it completely under control and there wasn’t any chance of them jabbing at it, then we could move it up the field.”
Meanwhile, the Naples defense denied every AFNORTH assault. Goalkeeper Hannah Hood made all eight saves required of her to preserve the shutout.
Hood’s heroics came a day after a quarterfinal scare in which she rescued the Wildcats from a penalty-kick showdown with Aviano, a signature moment in a Naples tournament run that ended in triumph but was marked by struggle. A 5-2 semifinal win over Vicenza in a rematch of last year’s championship game earned the Wildcats a shot at a fifth-straight crown.
“They worked so hard all week long, beaten up and battered, but they still came through in the end,” coach Lucy said.
The future of Wildcat girls soccer is bright but unclear. The team will lose Lucy, its All-Europe centerpiece and four-time champion, alongside goalie Hood and three other seniors. And sophomore Tyler Treat, the feisty forward who developed a fruitful rapport with Isabella Lucy over the last two seasons, is set to move to Virginia.
Thurston headlines the group that will launch the program’s next era, a core unit that includes forward Desirae Carpenter and defenders Kylie Beltz and Amanda Ortega. Naples also has a well-documented history of restocking its roster with new freshman talent.
“That’s the beauty of a military community,” Isabella Lucy said. “There are always new people moving in.”
Before looking forward to the future, Thurston took one last moment to appreciate the team she shared a title with Thursday.
“There are a lot of people leaving,” Thurston said while wrapping teammate Lucy in a hug. “A lot of seniors that we’ll miss.”