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Patch's Kylie Marchant scores a goal on a penalty kick to put her team up 2-1 in the DODDS-Europe girls Division II championship game against Aviano. Patch, which won the game and the title, will be playing in Division I this season and will be looking to Marchant and two other returning all-Europeans to lead it to another successful season.
Patch's Kylie Marchant scores a goal on a penalty kick to put her team up 2-1 in the DODDS-Europe girls Division II championship game against Aviano. Patch, which won the game and the title, will be playing in Division I this season and will be looking to Marchant and two other returning all-Europeans to lead it to another successful season. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

When the 2007 girls high school soccer season kicks off Saturday, there’ll be anoticeable logjam at the top.

Longtime Division II dominator Patch will join power-programs Heidelberg and Ramstein in Division I this year.

“It’ll be fun to see their style of play,” Patch coach Tom Manuel said Wednesday. “We’ll have to be patient.”

Patch has won six of the eight D-II crowns ever awarded — including the past two — along with three European titles in the single-class tournament used in the 1980s. The Lady Panthers also topped Heidelberg for the title in the combined D-I/II event held in 1999.

“We’ve played Heidelberg for the last four or five years,” Manuel said. “But it was always just a friendly where we were trying to get everybody into the game. It’ll be interesting to see how they play in a divisional game.”

The interest starts Saturday at Patch, which welcomes back All-Europe performers Kylie Marchant, Kate Frasca and Ciarra McGregor, but that’s a non-conference game, too. The two powers don’t play for real until April 28 at Heidelberg.

“They’ll be a welcome addition,” Heidelberg coach Jim McCauley said about the new kids on the D-I block. “[Manuel] runs a very professional organization.”

Ramstein coach Ricardo Buitrago agreed with McCauley’s assessment.

“[Patch] has an excellent track record,” Buitrago wrote in an e-mail. “They are very disciplined and very talented. I’m sure it will be a challenge.”

McCauley, whose Lady Lions have won 15 of the 24 European championship tournaments staged since the event began in 1983, have All-Europe players Ana Anger and Lauren Brosseau in harness for a run at title No. 16.

Heidelberg and Ramstein, which has three European-title plaques in its trophy case, have played one another for the D-I title every year since 2000. Heidelberg has won five of the seven showdowns since the turn of the century, most recently last May’s 5-4 shootout victory.

Aiming to even the score for that one, Ramstein’s Buitrago can call on All-Europe returnees Jayci Cachuela, Lauren Williams and Helen Della-Rovere, as well as Ramstein’s usual intake of talented transfers.

With Patch vacating the D-II throne, perennial contenders — such as Aviano, Naples and Black Forest Academy, the last team other than Patch to claim a D-II championship — and a newcomer, Vilseck, will be vying for the crown.

Two-time D-III champion Sigonella is rebuilding behind cross-country star Erika Anderson, according to Jaguars’ coach Shawn McCarthy. He sees 2006 runner-up Hohenfels and D-II transfer Hanau, led by All-European Fei Oloi, along with Vicenza, as the teams to beat.

Brussels, which welcomes back All-European Michelle Rosas, is the D-IV champion and will out to defend that crown at the European tournament, scheduled for May 16-19 at Ramstein.

2007 conference lineupsDivision IHeidelberg, Internat’l. Schl. of Brussels, Kaiserslautern, Lakenheath, Patch, Ramstein, Wiesbaden

Division II-NorthAFNORTH, Baumholder, Bitburg, SHAPE

Division II-SouthBlack Forest Academy, Mannheim, Vilseck, Würzburg

Division III-NorthAlconbury, Brussels, London Central (co-ed), Menwith Hill

Division III-SouthAnsbach, Bamberg, Giessen, Hanau, Hohenfels

American Schools in Italy LeagueAm. Overseas Schl. of Rome, Aviano, Marymount Int’l. of Rome, Milan, Naples, Sigonella, Vicenza

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