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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Naples won its fourth consecutive DODDS-Europe Division II girls soccer championship Thursday, avenging a shocking loss earlier in the week with a 2-1 title-game victory over archrival Vicenza.

The game represented the latest round of an ever-intensifying Italian rivalry, elevated to and temporarily settled on a continental stage in chilly Germany.

Vicenza has long pursued in-country nemesis Naples. On Tuesday, the Cougars finally landed a blow to the Wildcats with a 2-1 pool-play victory, breaking their rivals’ streak of three years without a loss. After both teams survived Wednesday semifinals, their championship-game clash was booked.

And on Thursday, the status quo was restored.

The evenly-matched grudge match was headed for a scoreless halftime tie when All-Europe Wildcat Isabella Lucy, an elder centerpiece of Naples’ dynasty, changed the game’s course. The junior found some space from her position on the right wing and launched a kick into the upper left corner of the net to give the Wildcats the advantage at intermission.

Rebecca Lucy, Isabella’s mother and Naples head coach, said the goal helped her team complete its recovery from Tuesday’s disturbing loss.

“Once a goal has been scored, the momentum of the team changes, the psychological edge is there,” the coach said. “Psychologically, we were down, and we knew we had to pick it up. And we knew that if we could score first, that it would set the stage for the rest of the game.”

Alexis Cutler, an emerging force on the young team’s roster, followed that script perfectly. The sophomore seized on a loose ball lingering around the Vicenza goal and smacked it in for an insurance goal.

A last-minute Vicenza score heightened the tension but failed to alter the outcome.

Cougars coach Arric Alicea said his team simply didn’t have the roster depth to pull off one last win at the end of a grueling week.

“Our legs were done,” Alicea said. “We were missing a gear.

“Give me one game against anybody, I’ll take my girls.”

Naples’ reign now moves into its fourth year, though this season was the most problematic for the Wildcats. In addition to the loss at the European championship, Naples narrowly avoided regular-season defeat in ties with Aviano and Sigonella.

But when the 2014 season kicks off, Naples will again be casting wary glances at the persistent Cougars.

“They’ve always been our toughest competition,” Isabella Lucy said. “It’s always a rivalry, but it’s always good in the end.”

For at least another year, anyway, it’s especially good in Naples.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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