Divisional realignment opens new possibilities
In the past two boys high school soccer seasons, predictability has come in threes: Ramstein and Heidelberg will probably play a 1-0 game for the Division I crown; SHAPE and Black Forest Academy will square off for the D-II title; and AFNORTH’s muscular Lions will batter their way through the artistry of the American Overseas School of Rome for the D-III championship.
Not this time.
As the new season kicks off, there are three new certainties: SHAPE will not repeat as D-II champ; AFNORTH won’t claim a third straight D-III crown; and Alconbury won’t retain its D-IV title.
OK, it doesn’t take any expertise to make those predictions. Those locks came about when DODDS-Europe redrew the sports map for the present school year and in the process eliminated Division IV, elevated SHAPE from D-II to D-I, and moved AFNORTH from D-III to D-II.
In addition to moving teams around, the new alignments opens pathways to new possibilities, magnified by the return of just a handful of last year’s All-Europe players. Things could be pretty wide-open in 2010.
Division I: Don’t for a moment, however, think defending champ Ramstein and perennial champ Heidelberg won’t face off again in the May 22 title game. Both have their usual allotment of skilled players, and Heidelberg, for the third straight season, has an anchor in junior All-Europe keeper Zach Harrington.
But this year, SHAPE and its talented corps of international players enter the picture along with 2007 runner-up and always tough International School of Brussels. Unfortunately for ISB, All-Europe midfielder Robert Brown will miss the 2010 tournament while taking his international baccalaureate exams, a situation that cost the Raiders the services of All-Europe midfielder Jambar Stills in 2009.
Even so, the road to the title game got steep between last season and this one, and expect the newcomers to be in the mix.
Division II: With SHAPE out of the picture and Aviano and D-III champ AFNORTH rebuilding, the favorite’s roles seem to go by default to always-tough Black Forest Academy, and AOSR, the two-time D-III runners-up, which had 45 try out for its 2010 team.
AFNORTH coach Kevin Padron, taking over from Greg Blankenship, is scouring the halls of his international school trying to replace eight of the 11 who started for last year’s champs. Aviano’s Louis Lucidi is undergoing the same process, but he has the luxury of building around talented junior keeper Sean Wilson.
Baumholder will try its hand behind All-Europe midfielder Prince Owusu, and Shawn Rodman, whose Hohenfels Tigers in 2006 became the first DODDS-Europe school to defeat an Italian private school for the D-III title, hopes his team, too, will compete in the 17-team field.
Division III: Like AFNORTH, reigning small-schools champ Alconbury is attempting to replace a raft — seven — of last year’s starters, but Dragons coach Jeffrey Black is optimistic about his chances.
"Despite losing so many starters, I think we could develop into a stronger team than we were last year come May," he said in an e-mail Monday.
Black explained that his experienced leadership of Devin Pryor, Greg Pettiway and Ernestas Tyminas has been together for three years, and that even newcomers Jeff Black and Travis Carr arrive with years of international experience under their belts.
Black sees the weekend of April 23-24 as the litmus test for the small schools, when 2008 champ Rota, Brussels, which returns eight performers from the 2009 edition of the Brigands, and rebuilding Menwith Hill descend on Alconbury for the Region I small-schools tournament.
Sigonella, toughened by a season pitted against D-II teams in Italy, figures to be stingy in allowing goals. The Jags, D-IV runners-up the past two years, return two-time All-Europe keeper Conor Quinn and an experienced back line of Niko Rosal, Andrew Barclay and Brett Gilbert, according to coach Philip Andre. Don’t rule them out of the title picture.
And according to Menwith Hill coach Hank Hurren, even the usual outsiders have a shot at the title.
"Both (Ankara and Incirlik) were dangerous in last year’s tournament," Hurren e-mailed Wednesday. "I don’t see anything as a comfortable fixture (on our schedule) or in the tournament."
Saturday’s games(Boys and girls at same sitesunless otherwise indicated)Region I—AFNORTH at LakenheathRegion II—No games scheduledRegion III—Black Forest Academy at BambergRegion IV—Marymount International School of Rome at Aviano; Vicenza at International School of Florence; Naples at Milan; Sigonella at American Overseas School of RomeRegional alignmentsRegion I—AFNORTH, Alconbury, Brussels, International School of Brussels, Lakenheath, Menwith Hill, Rota, SHAPERegion II—Baumholder, Bitburg, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Ramstein, WiesbadenRegion III—Ansbach, Bamberg, Black Forest Academy, Heidelberg, Hohenfels, Patch, VilseckRegion IV—American Overseas School of Rome, Aviano, International School of Florence, Marymount International School of Rome, Milan, Naples, Sigonella, VicenzaDivisional alignmentsDivision I (more than 400 students)—Heidelberg, International School of Brussels, Kaiserslautern, Lakenheath, Patch, Ramstein, SHAPE, Vilseck, WiesbadenDivision II (170-399)—AFNORTH, American Overseas School of Rome, Ansbach, Aviano, Bahrain, Bamberg, Baumholder, Bitburg, Black Forest Academy, Hohenfels, Mannheim, Marymount International School of Rome, Milan, Naples, VicenzaDivision III (169 and fewer)—Alconbury, Ankara, Brussels, Incirlik, International School of Florence, Lajes, Menwith Hill, Rota, SigonellaEuropean Divisions I, II and III championshipsMay 19-22 at Ramstein/Kaiserslautern