AOSR's long trip to Aviano starts off well
Aviano's Devin Franco bumps the ball to start the Saints offense Friday night in a volleyball match won by the American Overseas School of Rome, 25-14, 33-31, 25-15.
Stars and Stripes
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Home field in the world of American high school sports in Italy usually carries a distinct advantage, because most of the schools are so spread out.
But it wasn’t enough to help the Aviano Saints volleyball teams Friday night. The American Overseas School of Rome took over first place in the boys league with a hard-fought 23-25, 25-22, 29-27, 25-21 victory. Then the Falcons girls expanded their hold on second place with a 25-14, 33-31, 25-15 win.
AOSR – coming off not only an eight-hour bus ride, but also a week off due to the American School of Milan dropping out of league competition – seemed to take out that pent-up energy on Aviano.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” said Falcons girls coach Abby Bielski. “We’ve had extra practices and we didn’t play last weekend, so we were ready.”
AOSR, which improved to 7-2 on the season, didn’t exactly dominate. But the Saints — who fell to 4-3 — only threatened to win in the second set, and they don’t exactly intimidate most opponents.
All-European Giulia Silvi, at 5 feet, 1 inch, is the team’s best hitter. She’s also the only senior.
“If I could have her touch the ball every possession, I’d take it,” said coach Hans Hillestad. “We’re a defensive team. We try to play good defense and we didn’t play good defense today.”
Aviano’s lack of height allowed the Falcons’ Margo Snipe to score several key kills, stopping any potential momentum.
AOSR’s height also factored in the boys contest, with just about every starter around 6 feet. Aviano senior Zach Erskine more than held his own at the net, but the Saints didn’t get a lot of easy looks.
The third set was probably the key after the teams split the first two. Neither team led by more than three points, and an Erskine kill tied it at 23-23. Each team had chances to serve out the game, but neither did until Andrea Masciotta ended it with a two-handed stuff of a ball that had just barely cleared the net.
Coach Marcus Ciuffreda said he thought his team’s balance made the difference.
“Aviano has two of three really strong players,” he said. “But we have six good players.”
AOSR opened up a 13-9 advantage in the final game, but Aviano came back to tie it at 18-18. But AOSR never game up the lead, and Marco Cirri’s dink into an open net finished it off.
Aviano, which went into the night tied with AOSR at 6-0, had started quickly. The Saints scored the first six points of the contest and never trailed in the first set. Matthew O’Brien’s dink finished it.
But Aviano coach Louis Lucidi said his team started to veer away from its game plan.
“After that, we just lost our focus,” he said. “They’re teen-agers. It happens.”
Lucidi and Ciuffreda didn’t appear to lose any focus during the contest. Each was very demonstrative on the sidelines, providing almost as much entertainment as their teams.
They’ll get the chance to do it all again Saturday as the four teams square off again.