Spangdahlem caps perfect season with another title
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – It was a tale of two halves in the DODEA-Europe Division III girls soccer championship game Thursday between the defending champion Spangdahlem Sentinels and the Hohenfels Tigers.
The Sentinels dominated the first 40 minutes of play, jumping out to a 3-0 lead at halftime and extending their advantage 4-0 in the second half.
But just when it seemed the game might be blowout, a shutout – or both – the Tigers roared back, getting aggressive with the ball and cutting the Sentinels’ lead in half.
Spangdahlem’s early goals, however, were too much for the Tigers to overcome and the Sentinels prevailed to win their first Division III title, 4-2.
It was their third consecutive European title, though in different divisions and with different names. In 2017, the Sentinels were the Bitburg Barons. Last year was the first under the school’s new name of Spangdahlem, after Bitburg closed and students moved to nearby Spangdahlem Air Base. Realignment shifted Spangdahlem to Division III this year.
No matter the name or division, a championship is always special, the players said.
“I feel it just proves we may be a small school, but we still can stand out and prove people wrong,” said junior Chloe Smith, an offensive midfielder for the Sentinels.
Smith was one of four players to score for Spangdahlem, a team that, before the finals, outscored its four opponents 9-1 during the tournament’s round-robin play. Her sister, Izzy, a junior sweeper, and midfielder Kodee Teahon and striker Chesney Tieyah, both freshmen, put in the other goals.
The Smith sisters and Teahon were especially aggressive in attacking and distributing the ball, coach Jose Pumarejo said.
But the game never felt like it was in the bag, he said. Every time Spangdahlem scored, Pumarejo repeated “it’s 0-0,” an attempt to remind his players not to get too comfortable with their lead.
The Tigers “just kept coming,” Pumarejo said. “My hat off to them. It’s like a nightmare, they don’t ever stop.”
Izzy Smith said Hohenfels’ comeback was stressful. “I honestly thought we were going to lose. I was like, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got to pick it up.’”
Hohenfels freshman sweeper Yadira Martinez made herself a pest for the Sentinels in the second half, running up and down the field and passing the ball past Spangdahlem’s formidable defenders to the Tigers’ double scoring threats of Nicole Pineiro-Serrano and Kyhlee Edwards.
The aggressive play eventually played off.
Edwards, a junior striker, scored first for Hohenfels, a tap in that went between the goalkeeper’s legs.
“I just did a lucky shot,” she said.
The goal helped the Tigers avoid a shutout and shifted the momentum. Pineiro-Serrano, a senior forward, rolled the ball in from in front of the goal for the Tigers’ second score on a pass from Edwards.
“We were kind of tired, but we kept it together,” Pineiro-Serrano said. “We started playing more as a team.”
Edwards said she wished the Tigers had “started off the way we ended. Otherwise, we could have had a chance.”
The runner-up finish improves on the Tigers’ third-place finish in the finals last year.
“We finished strong,” senior Mia Rodriguez said.