Stuttgart on target for another title
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 30, 2017
The Stuttgart Panthers train their sights on a half-decade of dominance this weekend.
Reigning four-time champion Stuttgart headlines a roster of 11 programs from four countries set to open the 2017-18 DODEA-Europe marksmanship season Saturday. The regular-season schedule includes five regular-season meets across December and January leading up to the European championships set for Feb. 3 at Kaiserslautern, Germany.
The Panthers earned their fourth straight title last winter with a 45-point margin of victory over runner-up Vilseck, and appear well-positioned to extend their streak this winter. Five Stuttgart shooters finished among the top eight last fall, and four of them are back this year, including individual champion Fallon Dickinson and fellow seniors Callum Funk, Macy Kimball and Eileen Dickinson.
As always, coach Raul Pinon and the tireless Panther program are concurrently producing a second wave of stars to further strengthen their grip on the sport. Sophomore Isabelle Ploechinger and senior Jordan Fay expect to buttress Stuttgart’s core this winter while Pinon works to “integrate up-and-coming shooters” just below that top group.
Perennial contender Vilseck, meanwhile, faces challenges this season beyond Stuttgart’s uninterrupted excellence.
John Sabala, a veteran coach of multiple Falcon sports and a former marksmanship coach in Louisiana, takes over the program from longtime coach Mitchell Pollock. Adding to the upheaval, Sabala said he’ll field a team he said “suffered huge losses to PCS and graduation” and therefore faces a “big rebuilding year.” Junior co-captains Alyssa Garcia and Mikaela Motherwell - the latter of whom finished a strong second at last year’s European finals - lead a squad largely comprised of JV call-ups and freshmen.
Regardless, Sabala expects the Falcons to take their usual spot “in the thick” of DODEA-Europe contention.
“I am encouraged by what I have seen in early practices with my new folks,” Sabala said. “And my veteran shooters are showing good form early on.”
Kaiserslautern hopes to continue its steady climb to the DODEA-Europe elite this winter despite returning just one shooter, senior captain Victoria Jackson, from last year’s third-place entry. The Raiders can draw extra motivation from the fact that they will host the European finals for the first time this winter, taking over the job from Vilseck.
“We host other European championships here so it seemed like a good idea,” coach Robert Meyer said. “We are excited.”
Alconbury, a steady small-school contender that finished fifth last year, has an event of its own to look forward to this winter as it hosts a regular-season western conference meet for the first time. Baumholder, Wiesbaden, Kaiserslautern, Spangdahlem and SHAPE visit for the Dec. 9 occasion.
Like Alconbury, Hohenfels hopes to again qualify for the European finals despite a significant disadvantage in school size. The Tigers have 12 shooters, including four returnees, as they battle Ansbach, Vicenza, Vilseck and the powerhouse Panthers in the eastern conference.