Contenders only have a few weeks left to hone form
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 4, 2017
A number of DODEA-Europe soccer teams have managed to reach the final two weekends of the regular season without a divisional loss. But not all are likely to keep that streak alive for the duration.
The Division I boys standings look particularly vulnerable to upheaval over the season’s stretch run. Kaiserslautern, Naples and SHAPE all own unbeaten records entering this weekend’s action. While Naples has completed its Division I schedule and Kaiserslautern faces only winless Vilseck, the Spartans have one more major hurdle to clear.
The Spartans host defending champion International School of Brussels on Saturday in what promises to be the latest in a string of close contests this spring. SHAPE is coming off consecutive ties with Wiesbaden and Ramstein, while ISB took a 1-0 loss to Ramstein on April 28.
Black Forest Academy owns the only undefeated record among Division II boys entries. That won’t change as the Falcons have played their last divisional game until the tournament, instead gearing up for a title run with matches against larger opponents Wiesbaden, Ramstein and Stuttgart. Brussels clinched its spot as Division III’s lone unbeaten with an impressive 5-2 win over defending champion Alconbury last weekend.
While the large-school boys ranks remain murky, the Division I girls picture couldn’t be clearer. Reigning dynasty Stuttgart is the closest thing to a shoo-in in any DODEA-Europe spring sport, with a dominant mix of skill and experience that has already outclassed top contenders Ramstein and Naples by multiple goals. Fittingly, the Panthers are the only undefeated girls team in Division I heading into Saturday’s Division I finale against Wiesbaden.
Bitburg started gathering momentum for its Division II girls title chase early this spring with a 3-1 win over Black Forest Academy, a rematch of BFA’s 2-0 win in last year’s European title match. A 5-0 defeat of fellow Division II contender AFNORTH on April 22 secured the Barons’ undefeated divisional record and established them as the team to beat entering the tournament. Fellow unbeaten Rota lurks as a potential spoiler after a convincing 3-0 trip to Italy in late April.
Alconbury, meanwhile, occupies the inside track on a third straight Division III girls championship after winning its only two divisional games of the season by a combined score of 11-1. Hohenfels won its only Division III girls game of the spring over Brussels, and can match Alconbury’s mark Saturday with a defeat of Baumholder. Sigonella remains an enigma in both the boys and girls small-school bracket; the Jaguars won’t see Division III competition until the European tournament, set for May 17-20 at the Kaiserslautern Military Community.