Patch girls’ soccer team takes D-1 title, caps off perfect season

The Patch High School Panthers girls’ soccer team took on the Heidelberg Lions in a “cat fight” that pushed both teams to their limits during the Division 1 championship May 22 in Ramstein.

The Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe game went into double overtime.

With five minutes left, the Panthers’ Nelly Loney sent a shot into the upper corner of the Heidelberg net to help PHS capture the D-I trophy, and keep its undefeated season intact.

Patch and Heidelberg, the second- and fourth-seeded teams, respectively, reached the championship game on the strength of their offenses, but it was their defensive efforts that kept the final score at 2-1.

Sixty minutes into the game, Patch scored first, after team captain Brianna Heber scored on a penalty kick.

It didn’t take long, however, for  Heidelberg to even the score at 1-1,  with a tap-in of a corner kick only minutes later.

It did not unnerve Patch’s defense. Goalkeeper Ellie Welton prevented what could have been Heidelberg’s go-ahead goal when she batted away a Lady Lion shot early in the first overtime.

“We have had a strong defense all year, and Heidelberg’s defense was able to match up well against us in both the games we played [against] them this year,” said Heber, a senior and team starter since her freshman year.

As nice as it was to beat Heidelberg in the championship game and remain undefeated, the team’s semifinal victory over defending champion Ramstein a day earlier was just as sweet.

“Ramstein beat us (4-0) in the championship game last year, and we used that loss to help motivate us this year,” Heber said. “It was sweet revenge, especially knowing that they were undefeated coming into the semifinals game.”

Emma Murray led the way to victory over Ramstein with four goals, and was backed up by All-Europe striker Nelly Loney, who scored two goals.

“It was a fulfilling victory and really gave us confidence going into the championship game against Heidelberg,” Heber said.

While the championship game relied on defense, the Lady Panthers’ perfect season was the result of improving many aspects of their overall game this year. Friendly matches with local German teams kept the Panthers on their toes.

“We worked hard this year on our passing game and offensive strategies that enabled us to spread the other teams’ defense, which created many scoring opportunities,” Heber said.

“We were also able to improve our overall game by playing half a dozen games against local German girls’ soccer teams during the season,” she added.  “That really helped because the German teams are very good.”

In the past, the Lady Panthers have barely been able to hold their own against their German rivals, but this year, they won all their games — making 2010 truly an undefeated season.

“I can’t remember ever having a season where we won all our games, especially against the German teams,” said Thomas Manuel, team coach and PHS athletic director.

“This year’s team really worked together well,” he said. “They worked off each other’s strengths and played selfless ball, and the results were a championship and a perfect season.

“With only five seniors leaving the team, and a strong junior varsity team, the outlook for next year looks good,” Manuel said.