EuropeDODEA-Europe girls soccer
Season indicates that title battles will be intense
Stars and Stripes May 13, 2023
The city of Naples, Italy, has been buzzing the past week and a half following hometown club Napoli’s Serie A championship.
While on a smaller scale, the Americans nearby are hoping to mimic that success. The Naples girls soccer team enters this week’s DODEA European soccer championships in the Kaiserslautern Military Community as the top seed in Division II after finishing the regular season undefeated.
With that No. 1 seed, the Wildcats (7-0, 5-0) enter as the favorite to take the crown.
“When we started coaching this season, our question to the girls was, ‘What do you want out of this? What’s your goals for this season, what’s your dreams, what’s your aspirations that I need to coach you, help you toward?’” Naples coach Alyson Parenteau said. “They want the tournament championship. So, that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
The Wildcats only have experienced two close matches all season and just a single one-goal game – a 2-1 win over Sigonella on May 6.
Part of the reason comes in the form of their prolific goal scorer. Freshman striker Va Nae Filer has amassed 19 of the team’s 41 goals, has not been shut out in a single match and has three four-goal performances (against Aviano, Bahrain and Rota). Fellow freshman Emerson Shorey has totaled eight goals, while senior co-captain midfielders Emma Kasparek and Nadia Shimasaki have contributed six goals each.
Parenteau also credited unselfish attitudes by a pair of players to step into defensive roles. Junior Amber Ozturkoglu has turned into a key cog in the back line, while fellow junior Anais Navidad volunteered to become Naples’ second goalkeeper midway during tryouts– only to start most matches.
“They all have this internal drive and motivation to give it their all, which makes them have this great cohesiveness,” Parenteau said. “It’s been a very low drama season, which is fabulous. The common goal of let’s go out and play the game well is their driving factor that really makes them do well on the field.”
One of Naples’ biggest threats Monday through Thursday is a familiar face in Vicenza (8-1-1, 5-1-0). The Cougars, the No. 2 seed, dropped an April 15 contest against the Wildcats 3-1.
Vicenza coach Adam Ridgely noticed in that meeting the two squads are very similar. They have big-time goal scorers (Filer for Naples and sophomore Maya Fitch for the Cougars) and strong midfielders (the senior co-captains for the Wildcats and senior Sara Fitch for Vicenza).
“The thing I think about Naples is I think we’re pretty similar as far as our teams are concerned,” Ridgely said. “I was really impressed with the way they played. I was impressed with how organized they were.”
Despite that, the Cougars will bank on their experience of winning last year’s championship to return to the top of the pile at the end of this week’s tournament. The Fitch sisters themselves were all-tournament selections in 2022.
“You’re going to face adversity at some point in the tournament,” Ridgely said. “So, I’m hoping that having the experience, some tough games last year and having experienced a little adversity this year, that when it happens this year’s tournament, we’ll realize that we can work through it.”
Along with Vicenza, Parenteau mentioned Black Forest Academy as another team for which to watch out. She said little is known about the Falcons, as they have played just four matches – none against Division II opponents.
Lakenheath has made strides under coach Jose Pumarejo, this year putting together one of the stoutest defenses in DODEA.
The Lancers have allowed just two goals, one in a 2-1 win over Stuttgart at Kaiserslautern on April 7 and a 1-1 draw eight days later against Ramstein. This defensive effort has Lakenheath as the No. 2 seed heading into this week’s Division I European championship after a 4-0-2, 3-0-2 regular season.
Pumarejo’s system used a diamond backline with a stopper-sweeper setup ahead of junior goalkeeper Chloe Aldrich. Junior Alyssa Salinas occupies the stopper role, while fellow Sophia Yorko takes care of business as the sweeper. Also joining them in defense are sophomore Emily Blanke and first-time player A’Lydia McNeal.
“We have an excellent goalie, but that goal has an excellent support system in our defense,” Pumarejo said. “Our defense is solid. It’s like I tell my strikers: If you guys can score on our defense, you can score on anybody.”
The Lancers will hope the combination of stout defense and enough goal scoring will add a banner in the gym, but they will face tough competition in the Kaiserslautern area.
It begins with Ramstein (6-0-1, 4-0-1) and Stuttgart (4-2, 3-2), both of which are the defending co-champions. Lakenheath’s second draw of the season came April 8 against Kaiserslautern (0-0).
The Royals, as the top seed, know they face pressure heading into the tournament, according to coach Elizabeth Ferris. While allowing just three goals in the regular season, Ramstein’s offense has fired in 38 goals, meaning it could be a classic offense-vs.-defense matchup if the Royals and Lancers meet in the end.
“All the teams in D-I are talented and deserving,” Ferris said via email. “If we haven’t fully prepared or trained to be successful, then a more deserving team will certainly take the championship.”
The smallest tournament this season (just four teams are competing) could prove to be the most unpredictable.
Sigonella enjoys the best overall record at 5-2-2, but the Jaguars have played just one Division III foe – a 2-2 draw against Alconbury on April 29. Those Dragons lost to AFNORTH 6-1 in their first match of the season.
The Lions, meanwhile, have played just three matches, going 1-2.