The Heidelberg girls, like the boys, have a Division I soccer title streak going.

As the season opens this weekend, the Lady Lions are chasing their fifth straight championship.

The boys have won eight Division I titles in a row.

Although it would seem the best way to extend the streak would be to have sophomore goalkeeper Mariah Lauritzen — who faced 31 shots in Heidelberg’s 1-0 upset of previously unbeaten Ramstein in the title game — in the nets every time out this season, it’s not going to happen.

“Mariah is back,” Heidelberg coach Jim McCauley said, “and she’s still not wanting to play goalie.”

To accommodate Lauritzen, who finds playing goal “boring,” McCauley will play her in the field, along with All-Europe forward Grace Nichols and fellow returnees Erin and Ashley McConaughey, Kelly Scott, Julia Robertson and Eliza Bartlett.

All-Europe stalwarts Mari Shakir and Melissa Herzil return for Ramstein, but longtime coach Bill Belmear doesn’t. He retired, and has been replaced by Ricardo Buitrago, who has worked with the Royals boys the past three seasons.

All-Europe sweeper Bethany Fountain will be the anchor for Wiesbaden.

Würzburg coach Debby Greenberg will call upon six returnees who include all-conference performer Amanda Mastrian and goalkeeper Bianca Garcia.

Division II

While Heidelberg was extending its title string last May, Patch’s run ended at six. Black Forest Academy toppled Patch in the semifinals and went on to stop Bitburg 1-0 in the title game.

BFA returns five starters, including All-Europe midfielder Miriam Townsend, as new coach Gena Bulgrien tries to make it two in a row for the Falcons. As always, Patch will remain a factor behind All-Europeans Jessica Russell and Kylie Marchant.

All-Europe forward Kyrie Bye-Nagel again will provide the spark for Hanau, while Mannheim will have to replace only four starters from last year’s most-improved team in Europe.

Naples and defending European Division III champion Aviano will be playing for a Division II title this season, and Pam Hillestad’s Aviano Saints will be rebuilding around Ashley Lynch, AuBree Mariz, Evin Page and Kassie Mangosing.

“We’re excited about playing Division II,” said Hillestad, whose team opens by putting its 15-game winning streak on the line Saturday at American Overseas School of Rome.

In Naples, veteran Michelle Aguila and All-Europe first-teamer Tracy Light, along with seniors Tanisha Lee and Liz Stanley, will form the nucleus of Ron Ginter’s first edition of the Lady Wildcats.

Division III

Among the teams expected to benefit from the elevation of Aviano to Division II is 2004 Division III runner-up Ansbach. Coach Bruce Satterlund returns two All-Europeans, first-team sweeper Keke Johnson and second-team midfielder Alison Hazen. Also on the roster are all-tournament performers Alicia Contreras and Krysta Rangell, and an all-conference transfer from Baumholder, Alycia Higgins.

Vicenza coach Adam Ridgley expects good things from all-conference keeper Sarah Malone, sweeper Carmen Catena, midfielder Eireanne Robertson and forward Crystal Buhler. Giessen coach Edwina Smith expects to contend behind returnees Amanda Gray and Katherine Seitz, along with Janet O’Brien, Star Scott and Melanie Seitz.

Sigonella should gain from the switch of Aviano and the tournament format.

“For the last two years, [we] have lost in overtime to Aviano in the semifinals at the Mediterranean Tournament,” e-mailed Sigonella coach Shawn McCarthy, whose team was denied European berths each time.

This time, under the new, all-inclusive format of the European tournament, Sigonella, led by forwards Roberta Cassar and Whitney Lynch will be certain to have one.

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