Bitburg, AFNORTH to battle for championship
REICHENBACH, Germany – Both semifinal matchups in the DODEA-Europe Division II girls soccer tournament were so close they needed extra time Friday to decide Saturday’s champions.
Bitburg emerged with a victory over Rota with a 3-1 shootout triumph after tying the Admirals 3-3 in regulation. Then AFNORTH went into a second overtime to top Bahrain 2-1. The two winners meet for the title at 1:20 p.m. at Kaiserslautern High School.
Bitburg 3, Rota 3 (3-1 in shootout): The first knockout game of the semifinals Friday was also the best, with top seed and last year’s runner-up Bitburg narrowly overcoming an inspired Admirals side in penalty kicks.
Bitburg goalkeeper Francesca Gatterburg was the hero, making a pair of stops in the shootout and redeeming herself for a pair of blunders that led to Rota goals in regular time.
Gatterburg was even substituted by coach Mark Spencer after Rota’s third goal before heading back in just before the start of the shootout.
“I was really nervous because those first three that they scored were on me, so I felt the pressure but I knew I wouldn’t let them down,” Gatterburg said. “The ball was really slippery, and it could slip right out of your hands, but in (penalty kicks) you don’t need to hold it, you just need to punch it.”
Bitburg scored first, but quickly fell behind and was forced to come from behind twice to tie the game in regulation. A beautiful first-time finish by winger Nicole Kyser just minutes from the end ensured there would be extra time.
The result was a little harsh on Rota, which played extremely well throughout the game and marshalled Bitburg’s dangerous forward line well. Midfielder Emma Hook scored a pair of long-range free kicks that slipped through Gatterburg’s hands, but in the end it wasn’t enough to send the Admirals through.
“I’m so proud of them, really proud of them, they fought hard and played to the end,” Rota coach Clarice Brown said. “One thing we always tell them is to push through, and they did that.”
AFNORTH 2, Bahrain 1: An up-and-coming AFNORTH side did just enough to overcome Bahrain, scoring a dramatic late winning goal in the second overtime period.
Freshman striker Kyla Kolosky coolly slotted home a penalty kick just minutes from the end of the game after a Bahrain player was deemed to have handled the ball in the penalty area. It was Kolosky’s second goal of the game and the decisive strike to send the Brunssum, Netherlands, school into the finals.
Bahrain, a late arrival to the tournament due to travel problems, had to play its final round-robin game early Friday morning, and perhaps had some tired legs after two full games and an overtime period. The team played well, limiting AFNORTH to only a few chances in regulation and scoring a nice goal off of a set piece, with freshman Mayu Gayton nodding the ball home to force overtime.
Senior Helena Blaisdell-Black had a good game in midfield, helping to set up most of her team’s most dangerous chances, but in the end AFNORTH was too much.
“Focus, calm,” AFNORTH goalkeeper Abigail Stanley said of her team’s mindset going into the finals. “I think at the end we got a little flustered but as long as play calm and collected tomorrow, we’ll be good.”