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Alconbury Dragons' Lorna Lee puts her body on the line to try to dig a spike from the Spangdahlem Sentinels.

Alconbury Dragons' Lorna Lee puts her body on the line to try to dig a spike from the Spangdahlem Sentinels. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

RAF ALCONBURY, England – The matches didn’t count Saturday, but the teams mostly played like they did.

Alconbury hosted Lakenheath and Spangdahlem on Saturday in one of six volleyball jamborees around DODEA-Europe designed to get players some touches against competition before the official season begins Sept. 10.

“The purpose of this event was to get the coaches to come out and try out their lineups, get some experience and for a lot of us, see our teams in action for the first time,” Alconbury coach Sharen Lee said. “Overall, everything blew my expectations away.”

Spangdahlem's Audrey Hauck attempts a spike against Lakenheath's A'lydia McNeal.

Spangdahlem's Audrey Hauck attempts a spike against Lakenheath's A'lydia McNeal. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

Spangdahlem's Clara Loomis attempts to volley the ball back to the Lakenheath Lancers' defenders.

Spangdahlem's Clara Loomis attempts to volley the ball back to the Lakenheath Lancers' defenders. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

Lakenheath's' A'lydia McNeal goes for a spike against the Spangdahlem Sentinels defense.

Lakenheath's' A'lydia McNeal goes for a spike against the Spangdahlem Sentinels defense. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

The Alconbury Dragons celebrate winning a set after Kalila Te'o  scored seven straight points as the server against the Spangdahlem Sentinels.

The Alconbury Dragons celebrate winning a set after Kalila Te'o scored seven straight points as the server against the Spangdahlem Sentinels. (Kyle Alvarez/Stars and Stripes)

Many of the matchups were hard fought, going the full three sets as per the rules. Highlights brought spectators to their feet – with some cheering on all the teams even if they were not associated with them.

It seemed that the athletes weren’t the only ones happy to have some normalcy return to the courts after a year of no volleyball due to coronavirus precautions followed by competitors wearing masks while competing a year ago.

For some of the athletes, this was a good opportunity to not only see if their practices would yield the results they have been striving for, but also a chance to bond with their teammates in a real competitive setting.

“This was a fantastic learning experience,” Lakenheath Lancers’ junior Chloe Aldrich said. “Our team hasn’t played any official matches together, so this was great and definitely worth it for our team. It was a super positive experience seeing the level of sportsmanship we saw today not only from the other teams but from the people in the stands.”

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Kyle Alvarez covers the U.S. military in England. He graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga., with a degree in public relations.

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