The best of the best is even better for 2008.

"I’ve been very fortunate to be on the selection panel the last four years," Ramstein’s Ricardo Buitrago, a selector for this year’s All-Europe girls soccer team, said Thursday by phone. "This is the best team we’ve ever had."

Buitrago joined Kathy Clemmons of Hohenfels, John Crockett of Mannheim, Shawn McCarthy of SHAPE, Shawn Whitehurst of Sigonella and school system athletic director Karen Seadore in selecting DODDS-Europe’s top 30 players, 15 for the first team and 15 for the second squad.

As Buitrago indicated, this team has it all.

Looking for scoring?

Start with sophomore striker Alanna Crockwell of European D-II champion Mannheim.

"She’s the best striker in Europe," Crockett said Thursday of his scoring machine who shrugged off a sore knee to hammer home 23 goals and assist on four others. "She played hurt all year with a patella injury."

If by chance Crockwell is too closely marked, the All-Europeans can pass the ball to freshman Sophie Earll of the International School of Brussels. Earll scored 14 times and handed out 12 assists in teaming with senior Lydia Gray, a veteran of two previous All-Europe teams, to lead ISB to the Division I crown, first in the school’s history.

Can’t find Crockwell or Earll? Look for two other first-team freshmen, Patch’s Andi Marchant (11 goals, six assists) and Mannheim’s Anna Cressler (eight goals, eight assists), or Aviano senior Tiffany Hight (10 goals, four assists), Ramstein junior Macy Jepsen (seven goals), Heidelberg senior Lauren Brousseau (five goals, four assists) or three-time first-teamer Liana Knight of Kaiserslautern, a senior who scored 10 times in just eight regular-season games.

Organizing all that striking power, in addition to Mannheim’s Cressler, who Crockett said "can play anywhere," are SHAPE senior midfielder Dominique Anduaga-Arias, whom Whitehurst called the best female player he’s ever coached; three-time choice Helen Della-Rovere of Ramstein; ISB’s Gray, whose leadership and initiative was praised by her coach, Adrian Drury; and Bitburg sophomore Rachel Poock, who scored eight times and posted five assists while controlling the midfield for the Lady Barons.

Poock also excelled on defense, according to her coach, Valerie McCamish. And so did the all-Europe team as a whole, according to Buitrago.

"I think in general, teams have become much better defensively," he said. "I know in Division I, we didn’t score as much as we used to."

Especially against K-town, whose goalkeeper, senior Pia Coffman, kept 43 shots out of her net last season, or SHAPE, whose keeper, senior Natasha Hauber, stopped 67 drives at the net.

But there’s more to being an All-European than figures on a chart.

"The selections were made on the basis of skills and talent," Buitrago said. "Sometimes, numbers don’t tell the whole story, so you have to go on the word of other coaches or your own knowledge of the players."

Although the panel ignored school size in choosing its top 30, 13 players hailed from Division II, 11 from Division I, and three each from Divisions III and IV.

Concluded Crockett: "It’d be fun to coach a team like that, to take them to an all-star game or something."

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