Unbeaten Lions extend D-I reign
RAMSTEIN AB, Germany — The Heidelberg Lions waited until the last minute before claiming their eighth straight European Division I soccer championship with a 1-0 victory over the tenacious Wiesbaden Warriors on Saturday night.
The Lions got it done when striker Kevin Thorne — hemmed in for most of the evening — found himself open in front of the Wiesbaden penalty box with a minute to play. Freshman Jack Smerker fed Thorne, whose hard shot went just under the crossbar.
“It was crazy,” said Thorne, who minutes earlier had a clear shot at the net but whistled the ball over the bar. “I had so much room.”
The goal prevented the third overtime game of the day and the second in as many days for injury-depleted Wiesbaden.
It also marked the only Heidelberg shot of the day for which Wiesbaden goalkeeper Dan Parker had no answer.
“He really stepped up,” said Wiesbaden’s Cooper Bryant, the Olympic Development program star who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament prior to the tournament.
This is the fourth straight season the Lions and Lady Lions have swept the European Division I soccer crowns. The Heidelberg girls upset previously unbeaten Ramstein 1-0 in overtime.
Despite the long scoring drought Saturday, the boys team had no doubt they’d come up with their eighth straight title.
“It was a lot closer than I thought it would be,” junior Christoph Ascherl said. “Wiesbaden defended well, but we knew one was bound to go in.”
Heidelberg was able to complete the season unbeaten thanks in large part to the shutout posted by novice sophomore goalkeeper Matt Orlowski.
“I was nervous the whole time,” Orlowski said. “I was a left-mid for the whole conference season, and then they moved me to keeper for Europeans.”
Orlowski’s stellar work overcoming his nerves allowed seniors Philip Soriano and Paul Berger to leave the field with their fourth championship medals.
“We didn’t want to leave without getting that,” Soriano said.