Season on the brink: Ramstein girls nipped in finals

by Thomas Warner Contributing writer

Ramstein’s Haley Deome leaps into the center of the Stuttgart defense to try for control of a ball during the Europeans title match. — Photo by Evan Willingham

The 2018 soccer season was one of extreme highs for Ramstein, even if the Lady Royals lost in the championship game. The team went undefeated leading up to the finals and didn’t lose until an overtime shootout. It all sits well with the players and coaches.

“The match was just unbelievable. We played the best game we’ve played all season,” winger Aurora Davis said. “I hope nobody on this team feels any regret because we played our hearts out and we left it all out there on that field after an outstanding regular season.”

Ramstein was indeed undefeated but had tied Stuttgart 1-1 in the regular season – the only thing that kept their record from being perfect. The Stuttgart team was also undefeated with the one tie, which gave clear indication that these were the top two Division I girls’ soccer teams in Europe.

Ramstein junior forward Aurora Davis shoots good on a penalty kick as Stuttgart sophomore goalkeeper Sammie Kellogg defends during the shootout session of the championship game. — Photo by Evan Willingham

The first half saw more action down on the Stuttgart end but Ramstein junior goalkeeper Morgan Lewis deflected all shots on goal to maintain the scoreless tie at the intermission. Later, Aurora Davis and other Ramstein shooters began to take aim at the Stuttgart net.

“I think that scared us a little and we got a little more hop in our step for the second half,” senior Leisel Mendenhall said. “We honestly weren’t in any real trouble, but we knew if we didn’t come back harder in second half it could be a possible goal for them. We wanted to take some of the pressure off our own goalkeeper.”

And just one goal would be all it would take to win this championship battle royale. Since none were scored in regulation, the teams delighted the large crowd in attendance with a dynamic shootout session. Haley Deome and Haylie Scott started the RHS surge with shootout goals and then it was back and forth as Lewis and Stuttgart goalkeeper Sammie Kellogg each stopped some and missed some. After the first five shooters for each team couldn’t break the tie, the rest of the roster opened up to shoot.

“These teams were evenly matched and played such a gritty, high-energy game,” said Stuttgart coach Billy Ratcliff. “Ramstein gave us a great game both times we played them and both teams I think consider themselves pretty even. After being in a shootout last year in the championship and falling to Wiesbaden, we practiced PK situations an awful lot in our practices this year. It paid off but I’m sure Ramstein practices for PKs, too.”

Ramstein players react as they watch the penalty kick shootout during the DODEA championship game. — Photo by Thomas Warner

Ramstein seniors Brittany Cunningham, Gabs Janes, Elizabeth Noel, Baleigh McFall, and Mendenhall graduated knowing there was nothing more to be done. They were supported by a host of underclassmen that will return and push the program to try and create another solid season for 2019.

Deome had 12 goals and Madrid, Spain product Rocio Fernandez had nine more but there was production from many others during the season. Janes and Davis combined for 13 goals plus goalkeeper Lewis only allowed four scores during the entire Ramstein regular season.

Coaches Katina Campbell and Jason Scott took charge of the team after Ricardo Buitrago had guided the program for 14 years. “This season and how they played in the Europeans tournament was really positive for Ramstein,” said Campbell. “As coaches we are proud of and thankful for all of them and the commitment they made to work hard each day. This group of girls is really fun to be around and fun to coach. They worked extremely hard this season to get to the point they finished at.”