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Katie Stemple of the Black Forest Academy Falcons reaches for the ball during her team’s first game of the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament, against the Stuttgart Panthers, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Katie Stemple of the Black Forest Academy Falcons reaches for the ball during her team’s first game of the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament, against the Stuttgart Panthers, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Top-ranked Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern will vie for a spot in the Division I DODEA-Europe girls’ volleyball finals on Saturday while looking for a fresh start after coming up short against the No. 2 seeds in tourney play Friday.

The Panthers and Raiders face off in one semifinal while the Ramstein Royals and Wiesbaden Warriors will battle in the other semifinal.

Saturday’s lineup was set after Stuttgart faltered in a nail-biter against Ramstein in the final match of the day, 25-21, 25-19. Stuttgart, the No. 1 seed in Pool A, sailed through its first two matches, beating third and fourth seeds Black Forest Academy and SHAPE, respectively, in two sets apiece.

The Royals, who edged Stuttgart in the last DODEA-Europe title match in 2019, also won their first two matches, but went the distance against BFA, a contest decided in a thrilling, third tie-breaking set, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14. With the win, Ramstein was the only team to get through Friday without dropping a match.

Charlotte Roberts of Frankfurt International blocks the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Charlotte Roberts of Frankfurt International blocks the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
Members of Stuttgart’s Panthers look at the score against the Black Forest Academy Falcons during a team huddle at the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Members of Stuttgart’s Panthers look at the score against the Black Forest Academy Falcons during a team huddle at the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
Spice Harris of the Ramstein Royals serves the ball in a game against the SHAPE Spartans during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament  at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. Harris is a senior from Loganville, Ga.
Spice Harris of the Ramstein Royals serves the ball in a game against the SHAPE Spartans during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. Harris is a senior from Loganville, Ga. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

“The girls really rose to the occasion,” Ramstein coach Kandel Baxter said. “We’re ready to defend our championship on our homecourt.”

For the Royals, the path to the title goes through Wiesbaden, a team that swept Ramstein in the regular season and entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed in Pool B. The Warriors had to claw their way to a semifinal spot after losing their first match of the day against scrappy No. 4 seed Frankfurt International. Frankfurt rallied to push the match to a third tie-breaking set, winning 19-25, 25-20, 17-15.

The loss meant Wiesbaden had to beat Kaiserslautern, the No. 1 seed in Pool B, to keep their title hopes alive. That was no easy feat. The Raiders found their rhythm early, coasting to back-to-back victories against Frankfurt, 25-17, 25-19, and Vilseck, 25-8, 25-13.

Stuttgart’s Sofia Gentile jumps for the ball during a play against the SHAPE Spartans amid the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Stuttgart’s Sofia Gentile jumps for the ball during a play against the SHAPE Spartans amid the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
The Kaiserslautern Raiders gather for a pre-game huddle during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021
The Kaiserslautern Raiders gather for a pre-game huddle during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021 (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
Lakenheath’s Jessica Moon sets the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament game against the Wiesbaden Warriors at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021
Lakenheath’s Jessica Moon sets the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament game against the Wiesbaden Warriors at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021 (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

“We worked really well together as a team,” said Kaiserslautern senior libero Kiera Kelly. “We’re trying to keep getting better as we play.”

The Warriors proved a tougher opponent in a match that had the feel of a title game with the lead flipflopping on almost every point and emotions on the court and in the stands running high.

The Raiders took the first set 26-24. In the second set, Wiesbaden broke through after the score was knotted at 19 apiece when senior outside hitter and setter Alynna Palacios landed two spikes and senior defensive specialist Emily Benjamin nailed an ace on serve. The Warriors eked out the win, 25-19. Palacios found gaps in the Raiders defense in the third, tie-breaking set and junior middle blocker Lyndsey Urick sealed the win, 15-10, with a decisive block at the net.

“It was huge,” Palacios said of beating Kaiserslautern. “Especially because we lost to Frankfurt, our spirits were kind of low.”

Sophie Bugg gives time-out feedback to her teammates of the SHAPE Spartans during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Sophie Bugg gives time-out feedback to her teammates of the SHAPE Spartans during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
SHAPE Spartans, left, and Ramstein Royals bow in a display of sportsmanship during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament  at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. Athletes and spectators alike observed strict public health measures, to include mask wear on the court.
SHAPE Spartans, left, and Ramstein Royals bow in a display of sportsmanship during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. Athletes and spectators alike observed strict public health measures, to include mask wear on the court. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden's Alynna Palacios counters a shot from the Lakenheath Lancers during the DoDEA Volleyball Tournament  at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Wiesbaden's Alynna Palacios counters a shot from the Lakenheath Lancers during the DoDEA Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

Win or lose, players were grateful to be playing a tournament again this year, after the pandemic canceled last year’s European championships.

“I’m glad we’re here,” said senior Lauryn Hanner, a middle blocker for Lakenheath.

Lakenheath, a No. 3 seed, beat Vilseck in three sets, lost to Wiesbaden in two close sets, 22-25, 21-25 and went three sets in a losing effort against Frankfurt. Hanner said the team was playing a mix of varsity and junior varsity since some players couldn’t compete because they weren’t completely vaccinated.

Both semifinal matches begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ramstein. The title match is slated for 3 p.m.

Members of the Vilseck Vilseck Falcons go to the net with the Lakenheath Lancers during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Members of the Vilseck Vilseck Falcons go to the net with the Lakenheath Lancers during the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
Tyshia Davis of the SHAPE Spartans, second from left, looks on in frustration as her team falls behind against the Stuttgart Panthers in their second game of the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament Oct. 29, 2021, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Tyshia Davis of the SHAPE Spartans, second from left, looks on in frustration as her team falls behind against the Stuttgart Panthers in their second game of the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament Oct. 29, 2021, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
Icsiss Perez of the Stuttgart Panthers dives for the ball during a playoff pool game against the SHAPE Spartans amid the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021.
Icsiss Perez of the Stuttgart Panthers dives for the ball during a playoff pool game against the SHAPE Spartans amid the DODEA-Europe Division I Volleyball Tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 29, 2021. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)
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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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