KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - After a winless regular season, the Jaguars of Sigonella redeemed themselves in the DODDS-Europe Division III boys’ soccer tournament by taking down Brussels, 4-3, for the championship.
It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance for both squads, with Sigonella dominating in the first half and then shrinking in the second as Brussels, listless and lethargic through the first period, woke up to play through the last 40 minutes.
“I think we just eased up a little. We thought we had a good hold on the game, but that’s never the case,” Sigonella senior Alessandro Thomas said.
The Jaguars blasted out to a 3-0 lead on a gorgeous lob from sophomore Jason Berlin, a blast inside the box from freshman Kyle Marshall and a penalty kick from Thomas.
Marshall’s strike was his first of the entire season, he said. “Not a better time to get it than champs.”
But in the second half, Sigonella came out jittery and tepid. The rejuvenated Brigands controlled play for the first 20 minutes as the Jaguars fell back on their heels.
A day earlier, the Jaguars had blasted out to a 3-0 lead over Menwith Hill, then watched the margin melt away as the Mustangs put up two unanswered goals.
“I think we were just nervous that it was going to happen again,” Marshall said. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Brussels senior Merab Chitanava, who scored on a penalty just before the end of the half, poked in another in the 10th minute of the second half to reduce the gap to one. Thomas rallied his side with a solo drive in the 30th minute to put the Jaguars back up 4-2, but the energy that strike created was short-lived.
Chitanava scored on another penalty in the 35th minute to pull the Brigands back within one. But it was too little, too late.
“The first half, we didn’t come out as strong as we were supposed to and we gave them easy goals,” Chitanava said. “We should have played the first half better. There’s no excuses in this one.”
Sigonella’s regular season saw them regularly matched up against bigger Division II squads. Those mismatches were great prep for the tournament, Thomas said.
“Playing the tougher teams is always a good thing.”
The win brought Thomas his second championship of his high school career. Most of the Jaguars squad will be back for a shot to repeat next year.
“As a freshman, that’s a great start to four years of high school,” Marshall said.