Large schools scramble for semifinal spots
Stars and Stripes May 15, 2023
REICHENBACH-STEEGEN, Germany – The Wiesbaden boys soccer team had no knowledge of SHAPE heading into the DODEA European soccer championships.
In fact, the Warriors weren’t the only ones. The Spartans had faced just one Division I opponent before Monday in Ramstein, and a win in that one gave them the No. 3 seed.
The good news for the second-seeded Warriors was they didn’t have SHAPE as their first match on the turf field at VfB Reichenbach in Reichenbach-Steegen, Germany.
“Unfortunately for us, they’re a blank slate,” Wiesbaden coach Roberto Eiseman said of SHAPE. “We took the opportunity to see them play against Lakenheath before our first game here, and it helped me, the coaches and the players to see what kind of team they are.”
That study session proved fruitful, as the Warriors defeated the Spartans 1-0 to improve to 2-0 in the tournament and punch their ticket to the semifinals after the first day.
Wiesbaden defeated Kaiserslautern in its opening match 4-1.
Against SHAPE, senior forward Collin Koschnik scored the match’s lone goal early in the second half before going off with an injury. Despite that being the only goal, both sides had their chances to put the ball in the back of the net, but a combination of goalkeepers Patrick Iverson (Wiesbaden) and Fillip Haarseth (SHAPE) and shots going just wide kept the scoreline low.
It was a stressful match for Iverson, but the senior said the squad was happy with the performance.
“We knew they were going to be a tough opponent, but we were mentally prepared for a difficult match,” the senior keeper said. “A close game, both having a lot of offensive opportunities, so it was a good game, a tough game.”
For the Spartans, finishing was an issue on the first day, as they scored just one goal across both matches. Junior forward Santiago Torrente de la Pisa converted a penalty in the second half of the 1-0 win over Lakenheath, a match in which SHAPE had numerous goal-scoring opportunities that it couldn’t cash.
Coach James Cerf said while he’s concerned about the finishing, the Spartans still have their destiny in their own hands. A win against Kaiserslautern in their pool-play finale will send them to Wednesday’s semifinals.
“Yeah, we’ve only scored one goal, but we’ve had multiple chances to get it in,” Cerf said. “It just hasn’t materialized so far.”
The Warriors, meanwhile, just need a positive result (win or draw) against the Lancers on Tuesday to take the top spot in their pool. Eiseman, though, has warned his players against getting ahead of themselves.
“We take it one day at a time,” Eiseman said. “We recognize tomorrow that we have one game, and we’re going to bring everything that we got and make sure that we execute everything correctly.”
In the other pool, fourth-seeded Ramstein and top seed Stuttgart posted 7-0 wins over Vilseck, punching their tickets to the semifinals. The Royals and Panthers meet Tuesday to decide who wins the group.
The Raiders, meanwhile, stayed alive with a 2-0 win over the Lancers.
It may be tournament time, but Stuttgart still felt the sting from a 2-1 loss to Lakenheath at Kaiserslautern on April 7.
On the grass field at VfB Reichenbach on Monday, the Panthers got revenge, taking down the second-seeded Lancers with a 2-0 victory.
Like in the first matchup, the Panthers (5-2) took an early lead through a Kendall Boudreaux goal. The difference this time was they got a second goal before halftime, as senior Gracie Self slotted home a penalty past Lakenheath goalkeeper Chloe Aldrich.
“They’re communicating better and their confidence has come up from then,” Stuttgart coach Robert Loyd said of the difference between the regular season meeting and on Monday. “It was hard that first loss. They came in believing they can win.”
The Stuttgart defense then shut the door on the Lancers (5-1-2), although Lakenheath had its share of chances. Panther Anna Thompson said the key was not giving the Lancers much space to roam.
“We decided to pull back more,” the senior fullback said. “We had the stopper, and we’ve been practicing filling with the midfield, defense.”
While a setback, Lakenheath just needs a win over Vilseck on Tuesday and it’s into Wednesday’s semifinals. The Lancers handled SHAPE 3-1 in their first match Monday.
Coach Jose Pumarejo said his team would have liked to have squared off with Stuttgart in its first match with fresh legs, but he wasn’t using that as an excuse. He said he also expects his players to bounce back.
“The girls took it hard, but I know they’re going to be all right,” Pumarejo said. “They’re resilient.”
Stuttgart now is in the drivers’ seat in the pool, and a win or a draw will give the third seed the top spot. The Panthers defeated Vilseck 7-0 in their first match.
That top spot comes with likely avoiding top seed Ramstein in the semifinals.
“Am I happy to wait on that one? Yes, of course,” Loyd said. “Nothing is better than a final game against the No. 1 team. That is definitely a plus.”
One team Stuttgart could face Wednesday is Wiesbaden. The Warriors upset fourth-seed Kaiserslautern 3-1 in the opening match and held their own in the first half against the Royals before succumbing 5-0.
If Ramstein records a win or draw against the Raiders on Tuesday, the Warriors will advance.