Girls European soccer preview
Patch, Naples, Rota looking for repeats
By RUSTY BRYAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 18, 2012
Three impressive streaks will be on the line Monday and Tuesday when the girls’ European Divisions I, II and III soccer tournaments get under way at German clubs in the Ramstein area.
Two of the tourney’s No. 1 seeds, defending champions Patch of Division I and Naples of Division II are chasing three-peats. And two-time defending Division III champion Rota enters the 2012 tournament with a chance to win a fourth straight European title. The third-seeded Admirals, classified as D-III since 2010, won the defunct D-IV title in 2009.
Based on the seeds and their performances during 2012, anyone except Patch and Naples winning their divisions would rate as an upset. For Rota, however, the shoe, statistically at least, is on the other foot. While Patch and Naples were cruising through unbeaten regular seasons this spring, Rota came up a goal short of a perfect season April 28 at Alconbury in a 1-0 loss to Menwith Hill.
Patch, on the other hand, came up a goal short of shutting out all seven of its regular-season opponents. The Panthers, who lost their goose-egg season on the final day in a 4-1 conquest of Vilseck, experienced their closest call in 2012 in a 2-0 blanking of visiting Black Forest Academy of Division II on April 20.
Naples, too, romped in 2012, with a 3-2 escape at home against fourth-seeded Vicenza on March 31 the only game it didn’t win by three goals or more.
A division-by-division look at this year’s tournaments, which will play its first three days at German clubs in Landstuhl, Reichenbach-Steegen and Waldmohr, Germany. Thursday’s title games are scheduled to be played at Ramstein High School.
Don’t get the idea a third straight Patch title will be a cakewalk. No. 2 Ramstein, last season’s runner-up, also is unbeaten. No. 4 Kaiserslautern, which dropped a tough 1-0 verdict to Ramstein on May 12, and No. 3 Heidelberg, in spite of its early-season 4-0 home loss to Patch, are one-loss teams in the mix and capable of pulling off the upset.
As Kaiserslaurern coach Brian Daly put it in a pre-tourney email, “I believe that the top four seeds should advance to the semis, and then it is anyone’s game.”
Obviously, minefields abound in a 15-team event that requires each team to play two pool-play games on Monday, then divides the field into a single-elimination bracket the rest of the way. In the one-and-done phase, any low seed can pull the upset with a break or lucky bounce.
Naples, however, already has negotiated several of those possible minefields, defeating No. 3 Marymount International School of Rome, No. 4 Vicenza, No. 6 Aviano, No. 9 American Overseas School of Rome and No. 12 American School of Milan during the regular season.
Biggest obstacles for another Naples title are the No. 2 seed, unbeaten AFNORTH, and No. 5 SHAPE, which comes into the tourney not having allowed a goal in its last five games.
Tight hardly begins to describe the six-team D-III field, which will determine its participants in Thursday’s title game by playing a round-robin on Days 1-3.
As Menwith Hil coach Peter Resnick summarized in an email, “We needed to use the tie-breaker system to determine the first seed in the tournament (Brussels) … It … show(s) how wide-open the girls’ Division III is this season. Sigonella and Ankara are normally very competitive teams as well, but they haven’t played anyone in Division III yet. Sigonella (No. 4) always benefits from playing the larger schools in Italy.”
Don’t rule out Rota, which downed the No. 1 seed, Brussels, 1-0 in April. And don’t rule out anyone else, either.
Menwith Hill's Samantha Cubbler (right) tries to break up an offensive run by Rota's Gabby Rivera at RAF Alconbury, England in April. Cubbler scored the only goal of the match to lead the Mustangs to a 1-0 victory. Menwith Hill is seeded second and defending champ Rota is third in Division III when the DODDS-Europe soccer championships get under way Monday.
DAVID HODGE/STARS AND STRIPES