DODDS-Europe soccer signs off for the regular season after this weekend’s set of 10 boys and girls doubleheaders. Here’s a look at the teams on the verge of taking an undefeated record into the European tournament, set for May 19-22 at sites around Kaiserslautern Military Community:
Lakenheath: The Lancers have developed a knack for winning close games, and have been rewarded with a 4-0-1 record entering their Saturday finale against Alconbury. Lakenheath has earned three of its four wins by a single goal. Coupled with its lone non-victory – a 1-1 tie with SHAPE on March 29 – those tight games should have the gritty Lancers poised for success in the gritty postseason.
Marymount: The three-time defending Division II champions were supposed to be down this year after losing their stellar senior class. That’s what their competition hoped, anyway. Reality has told a different tale. The Lions have trounced all comers this season as thoroughly as ever, winning each of its four DODDS-Europe games by multiple goals. Two big obstacles loom on the season’s final weekend in the form of a title-game rematch with American Overseas School of Rome and a date with fellow unbeaten Naples. If neither team can corral the Lions, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it in the tournament.
Naples: A surprising April 19 tie with underdog Aviano is the only blemish on the 4-0-1 Wildcat record, which includes three wins by at least three goals. Naples has already handled AOSR; Saturday’s visit to Rome represents the team’s final regular-season test.
Patch: Like Lakenheath, the Panthers have shown a propensity for winning – or at least not losing – close games against well-matched opponents. The Patch perseverance was on full display the weekend of April 18; when the Panthers played Ramstein to a scoreless draw and eked out a 1-0 win over Wiesbaden a day later. Ensuing wins over Hohenfels and Vilseck by a combined 11-0 score proved that Patch can also score a few without compromising its defense. The Panthers are idle this weekend.
Ramstein: The above-mentioned tie with Patch is the only close game the Royals have played to date. They might find another one this weekend against visiting Wiesbaden. Regardless, the Royals are a threat to further last year’s European semifinal run.
Lakenheath: The 4-0-1 Lancers haven’t seen a lot of serious DODDS-Europe action this season, with a 9-0 rout of overmatched Menwith Hill and a forfeit win over understaffed International School of Brussels taking up 40 percent of their schedule. But Lakenheath has responded well to what challenges have presented themselves, beating AFNORTH and Brussels and tying SHAPE. The red flag on its schedule: the Lancers will enter the playoffs with no experience against fellow Division I teams.
Naples: If there’s a team out there that can keep the Wildcat claws out of a fifth consecutive Division II European title, that team has yet to present itself. Naples has been unbeaten and unchallenged this season and faces winless Marymount on Saturday.
Ramstein: The 5-0 Royals scraped out a measure of revenge from Patch on April 18, outscoring the Panthers 4-3 in a rematch of the last three Division I European championship games. That’s not enough to install Ramstein as a lock to reclaim the crown Patch took from it a year ago, but it doesn’t hurt the Royals’ chances either.
SHAPE: The 4-0-1 Spartans might be the Division II team with the best chance to unseat Naples. SHAPE ran through Division II and III competition and played Division I Lakenheath to a 2-2 standstill on March 29. A Saturday win over AFNORTH, another solid Division II contender, will send the Spartans to the playoffs with all kinds of confidence.