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Aviano’s Serena Taylor watches Vicenza’s Sara Fitch try to keep the ball in front of her during a fast break on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in the Cougars’ 34-9 victory.

Aviano’s Serena Taylor watches Vicenza’s Sara Fitch try to keep the ball in front of her during a fast break on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in the Cougars’ 34-9 victory. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

The focus of DODEA-Europe sports shifts south this week as the organization holds winter postseason events for its programs in Italy and Spain.

The DODEA-Europe Division II basketball tournament takes place Thursday through Saturday at Vicenza. Naples hosts the single-day Southern wrestling final meet on Saturday. Italian schools American School of Rome, Aviano, Naples, Sigonella and Vicenza and Spanish visitor Rota are due to compete.

This week's events are a departure from DODEA-Europe's pre-pandemic routine, in which every school from every geographic region gathered in Germany to crown champions.

The 2020-21 seasons and tournaments were canceled entirely due to COVID-19, as were the opening weeks of the 2021-22 regular season.

DODEA held basketball and wrestling postseasons in Germany in February that approximated its pre-pandemic format. But the Division II schools, currently all located in Italy and Spain, didn’t make the trip north.

The absence was particularly noticeable in wrestling, in which every wrestler participates head-to-head regardless of school size and division. But it also left traditional Division III power Sigonella from competing against schools its size in basketball. The Jaguars will instead be competing against larger schools this week.

Still, that's a minor inconvenience in the context of the two years since the 2020 tournament, successfully completed just before the pandemic took hold in Europe.

This season, teams in Italy and Spain were limited by COVID-19 restrictions throughout the winter season, facing cancelations beyond DODEA-Europe's league-wide cancelation of the 2020 portion of its schedule. Naples, Sigonella and Rota didn’t compete at all in January. But the schools fit a lot of action into a truncated schedule to set the stage for this week's long-awaited crowning of champions.

Rota has been dominant this winter and enter the boys bracket as undefeated top seed and championship favorite. Second seed Naples headlines the competition.

The AOSR girls went 8-0 in the regular season to claim their tournament's No. 1 seed. Vicenza gave the favored Falcons their toughest test of the winter, a 41-36 decision on Feb. 19, and will try again from the bracket’s No. 2 spot.

Basketball games begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, with every team playing four times before semifinals Friday afternoon. The winter season concludes with championship games Saturday starting at 2 p.m.

Rota and Vicenza headline the wrestling field after Rota's evenly matched 42-36 defeat of Vicenza in a Feb. 19 head-to-head encounter.


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