The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart intramural soccer team defeated the top-seeded Grafenwoehr at the U.S. Forces Soccer Championship semi-final game at Camp Darby, Italy, Oct. 25, giving the team a third place finish overall.
The team battled through five games in four days for a shot at the top slot — four round robin games and a semi-final game — but was defeated by Aviano in the semi-final round 2-1. (Ramstein beat Aviano for first place 4-3 in penalty kicks). However, Stuttgart’s victory over Grafenwoehr in the third place game gave the team reason to celebrate.
“That [win] was probably the highlight of our time there,” said Sgt. Peter Lucas (U.S. Marine Corps), head coach. “There’s a little friendly rivalry between the two teams.”
During the regular season, the Stuttgart soccer team only lost one game — to Grafenwoehr.
In the semi-final, Stuttgart’s Isaac Aku Jr. scored the first goal, and the first half ended with a tied score of 1-1. Late in the second half, Stuttgart’s Folgalla Nkweti scored the winning goal, assisted by a long kick from Sgt. Jacob Sutherland, sweeper and team captain.
“It was almost like revenge for us,” Sutherland said with a laugh. “We’re always the top two Army teams in Germany.”
The victory was sweetened even more by the fact that the team was exhausted from round robin games, and had only 14 players on the roster during the tournament.
“It was exhausting,” said Cyndal Llanas, left midfielder and the only female on the team. “Toward the end of the tournament, everybody was sore.”
Still, she added, the team played its best during that final match against Grafenwoehr. “After we scored the second goal, we were determined not to let them score again,” she said.
The team has a record for fighting against the odds, Lucas said. In fact, he added, during most of the regular season games, the opposing team scored first.
“Our major strength is that we have strong willpower to come back,” he said. “We’re just a fighting team. We go in there and get it done regardless of the obstacles.”
After taking second in the finals last year and third this year, the Stuttgart team has one goal in mind for next year: to win the tournament.
Llanas, who will re-join the team next year, sees a first place finish as a very real possibility.
“I think if we started from the beginning playing as well as we did in the end [of the tournament], we probably would have won [this year],” she said. Still, she added, beating Grafenwoehr was exciting in itself. “We have bragging rights now.”
(Additional information provided by Joyce Costello, USAG Livorno Public Affairs)
“Our major strength is that we have the willpower to come back. We go in there and get it done regardless of the obstacles,” said gt. Peter Lucas, U.S. Marine Corps, USAG Stuttgart soccer head coach