HEIDELBERG, Germany - Saturday marked the end of an era as Heidelberg High School played its final soccer game at Patrick Henry Village.
Though the Lions’ seasons aren’t over - with both girls and boys set to play at Vilseck next weekend before they play in the European championships - it was the last time that a DODDS-Europe soccer game was set to be played in Heidelberg, which is slated to close this summer as U.S. Army Europe consolidates its headquarters in Wiesbaden.
Although only the girls played Saturday because Bamberg - the Lions slated boys opponent - dropped its program last week, both the boys and girl seniors were honored before the girls friendly match against Patch started. Because the two teams had already played this year, the game doesn’t count in the Region III standings.
Patch emerged with a 1-0 victory. It wasn’t the best possible outcome for Heidelberg fans, who have been used to rooting for a lot of winning teams over the decades.
Through 55 years of fielding soccer teams, the Lions have notched 35 European championships, 19 on the boys side and 16 for the girls program.
But most fans seemed to be in celebratory moods regardless of the outcome.
Jim McCauley and Tom Manuel, Heidelberg and Patch head coaches, both sported “Patchelberg Love” shirts, a nod to the years of competition between the two schools. It was only fitting that Heidelberg’s McCauley and Patch’s Manuel squared off for the Lions’ final home game, as both coaches have been part of the DODDS-Europe girls soccer scene since the first season in 1982.
The fervor on the field was intense, as both squads were hoping to gain some momentum heading into the European finals in three weeks.
Patch’s Tanner Boyle broke the scoreless deadlock early in the second half as she put a shot into the left corner after Heidelberg goalie Erin Ott laid stretched out following a save on the Panther’s previous shot.
“I just wanted to get it in the net,” Boyle said about the game’s only score.
Both squads played a tough defensive game and the Lions had a couple of breaks after improving their passing game in the second half.
Heidelberg’s Jennifer Bumgardner was able to penetrate the Panthers defense a couple of times, but couldn’t stuff in the equalizer.
The Lions weren’t hanging their heads about the loss to last season’s European runners-up, though.
“Every game, we see what we need to work on still,” said Heidelberg senior forward Layna Lowe, who noted that transitioning from defense to offense is the area the Lions need to focus on leading up to the championships.
Lions senior Anna Miller, a four-year member of the team, said the day’s events exemplified the friendly relationship that Patch and Heidelberg have enjoyed over the years. She quickly put on her game face again, though, as she put the emotions of Heidelberg’s last home game behind her and started to think ahead.
“Watch out for us at Europeans,” Miller said.
The undefeated Heidelberg boys hope to hold off Vilseck next weekend to keep their perfect record intact heading into the championships.
“We have nothing to lose, we’re showing everyone we’re still here,” said Heidelberg senior co-captain Vinnie Harrington, whose brothers Zachary and Andrew also sported the Lions colors on the soccer field in past years
The Lions other co-captain, senior Andrew Guelle, agreed, adding that even as the high school continues to prepare to shut its doors for good next month, they still have a few things to prove on the field, including a European championship.
“We really want to show everyone that we can still be a powerhouse,” Guelle said.