EuropeGirls soccer preview
What new surprises are ahead for girls on pitch?
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2023
It’s been a funky couple of years in the DODEA-Europe girls soccer scene.
Yes, COVID-19 played a role, but even last spring when the teams experienced normal seasons, one result proved to be a rarity. The Division I title was shared between Ramstein and Stuttgart after a storm canceled the second half of the final with the score tied at 1-1. The players on both teams decided to share the crown.
Both squads expect to be in the running once again come the end of the season in the Kaiserslautern Military Community on May 15-17. As do defending champions Naples (Division II) and Sigonella (D-III).
Based on responses from coaches, here’s a look at teams for this season, which starts the weekend:
The Lions are on the prowl for a championship after falling short in the Division III title game last spring, 3-1.
AFNORTH returns 11 from that squad, including Bella Benedetto. A trio seniors lead the way in Paula Bohlen, Kailey Koger and Charlotte Paquin, while juniors Isabella Guest, Eleyna Keyhan Rodger, Finja Liebing, Gabriela Moreno and Sara Nix give the Lions a strong upperclassmen core.
Also coming back are sophomores Shannon O’Connor and Selah Skariah.
Coach Christy Wise said AFNORTH also has numerous additions to the team of “true athletes” who have some soccer experience.
American Overseas School of Rome
For the first time in a decade, coach Daniel Zacaroli has more than 50 percent of the previous year’s team returning, including 9 of 11 starters.
Thus, the Falcons have high expectations, especially after finishing third in the Division II tournament last season. Zacaroli said the players understand the system well, which should lead to more improvement.
All-tournament selection Mia Lambert is a senior captain, while junior midfielder Reiley Lester joins her as captain. Clara Clayton, the DODEA Division II basketball tournament MVP, and Cristina Nespoli – the DODEA volleyball MVP – round out the trio of junior midfielders.
Of the newcomers, Maddie Horowitz transfers onto the team to man the sticks as goalkeeper and solidify the defense.
The Saints are hoping to take the next step after taking second place last season to Vicenza, 2-0.
Aviano has nine returners and eight newcomers for first-year coach Sarah Hartman to try and take to the top.
Jose Pumarejo takes over a team that went 5-1 during the regular season and 2-3 at the European championships in 2022.
He has a few returners to help with the transition, starting with senior central midfielder Annabelle Herring, who scored 10 goals a year ago. Fellow senior striker Heidi Amberson also had 10 goals last spring. Juniors Hailey Buchanan and Maddison Beedham add width on the wings. So does Emily Blanke, who has played on the left wing and at striker for the Lancers.
Sophomore Macy Herring can play anywhere on the field, and had six goals and three assists last year.
Junior Sophia Yorker (center back) and Chloe Aldrich (goalkeeper) anchor the defense.
Among the newcomers are A’lydia McNeal, who will be playing soccer for the first time, and Lauren Carlson, a defender who played four years in Kershaw County, South Carolina, and Yokosuka, Japan.
Coach Alyson Parenteau has noticed a few things about this squad heading into the season.
First, she said she anticipates the strength being in the midfield and attack. And second, the Wildcats are faster than the 2022 team that finished fourth in the Division II tournament.
Naples returns seven players from last spring. Seniors Emma Kasparek, Ave Maris Lopez and Nadia Shimasaki lead the way, while juniors Gabriella Barnard, Sabrina Elrod, Anais Navidad and Amber Ozturkoglu give the Wildcats a solid upperclassmen core.
Senior Ally Garcia and junior Rylee Rummel join the team, as do sophomores Marianne Burak, Ariyana Pablo and Ava Williams and six freshmen.
Coach Andy Reardon may not be thinking repeat, but looking at whom the Jaguars are bringing back, it’s hard not to see it being a possibility this spring.
Eleven return from last spring, including nine starters. Three of those nine – sophomore Ryleigh Denton, junior Isabelle Balleza and senior Leila Denton – received all-tournament honors in 2022. Sigonella will rely on Leila Denton, the reigning Division III tournament MVP, and fellow senior Marley McElree to make an impact in 2023.
Reardon also has several new options that will provide more depth than the team had during its title run.
The Sentinels had a good regular season only to struggle in the postseason, and they will be hoping 2023 will be more than the former than the latter.
Coach Josia Onyango will look to returners Kimberly Saylor, Alyssa Esmailka, Naomi Leggett, Gabriella Sanchez, Maddisyn Glover, Isabelle Bodily, Natalie Moran and Lena Maassen to pace Spangdahlem.
Newcomers include Alexis Lauer, Kaylee Lauer, Claire Walker, Isabelle Taylor, Laureen Weyland, Miya Mood-Hoffman, Riley House and Samantha Moran.
The Panthers and Royals shared the spoils in Division I last spring after a thunderstorm washed out the second half of the title game.
In 2023, the Panthers will hope to bring home the crown without having to share it.
Stuttgart will do so with the help returning captains in center back Anna Thompson and left midfielder Kendall Boudreau. Also coming back are right midfielders Issa Sanchez and Haileigh Spencer, central midfielders Bella Henderson and Victoria Hunter, fullbacks Ruthie Thompson and Isabella Gerlerter, and forward Haley Wells. The Panthers will turn to Emma Gizinski and Madelyne Metcalf in goal.
Rounding out the varsity squad are forward Hailee Wilkinson, defensive midfielder Evangeline Eaton and midfielders Gracie Self, Alexandrea Burns and Audrey Bixler.
Coach Adam Ridgley anticipates the Cougars’ Division II title defense to face stiff competition, but that won’t stop them for going after it.
Two all-tournament selections from last season, midfielder Sara Fitch and midfielder/forward Maya Fitch, will pace Vicenza. Among the other returners are keeper Gia Berea, defenders Laurel Gill and Dari Lopez-Nieves, defender/forward Mackenzie Blue, midfielder CeCe Janssens, defender/midfielder Avonlea Sparling, and forwards Julia Rudy, Tyler Holt, Leyla Petersen and Sora Hall.
Transferring in are senior defender/midfielder Lilly Pollard and sophomore midfielder/forward Brooklyn Jenni.
The Warriors finished third in the 2022 DODEA European Division I tournament, and they bring back 11 players from that squad. This has first-year coach Katie Bloomquist thinking Wiesbaden can be competitive once again this spring.
Wiesbaden will turn to senior striker McKinley Viers; forward/midfielder Eszie Munoz; midfielders Rylee Ashcraft, Bridget Pidgeon, Maria Valdez and Hailey Forest; midfielder/keeper Lorelei Kemmer; keeper Michaela Furnia; defenders Hannah Buchheit and Isabelle Wynn; defender/ midfielder Meghan McConnell.
New to the squad are midfielders Zara Jimenez-Gonzales and Alaura Stelker, defender Kasey Jacobs, and midfielders/defenders Sara Priet, Loren Venton and Vianney Nunez.