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Sigonella’s Ryleigh Denton spikes the ball in the final set in the Jaguars' semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

Sigonella’s Ryleigh Denton spikes the ball in the final set in the Jaguars' semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The second day of the DODEA European girls’ Division III volleyball tournament featured more of the same, with lower seeds spoiling for upsets and top tier teams usually prevailing.

And that was good news for Ansbach and Sigonella, which ultimately prevailed enough to advance to Saturday’s championship games after respective semifinal victories over Spangdahlem and AFNORTH.

The championship match will represent a rematch of Friday’s pool play contest won by Ansbach that helped determine the semifinal matchups.

While the early slate of games didn’t mean much as the previous day had locked in all four teams bound for the semifinals, they were hosts to a roller coaster of emotions. 

The Hohenfels-Brussels matchup in particular paired teams that seemed desperate for victory. Brussels eventually won 25-13, 25-20.

The last game of the morning featured Ansbach and Sigonella with the top seed in the pool on the line. Looking a bit jittery and lacking the mental fortitude that propelled them to victory later in the day, Sigonella came up just short, losing in three sets. 

Sigonella’s Anabel Vaiclis spikes the ball into AFNORTH defenders in a semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

Sigonella’s Anabel Vaiclis spikes the ball into AFNORTH defenders in a semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Sigonella’s Ryleigh Denton attempts to put the ball over AFNORTH defender Elsa Stubendorff in their semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

Sigonella’s Ryleigh Denton attempts to put the ball over AFNORTH defender Elsa Stubendorff in their semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach’s Trinity Batin hits the ball just out of reach of Spangdahlem defenders in their semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Ansbach’s Trinity Batin hits the ball just out of reach of Spangdahlem defenders in their semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach’s Laila McIntyre launches the ball over the net in a semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Ansbach’s Laila McIntyre launches the ball over the net in a semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Sigonella celebrates its ninth trip to the finals in the last 10 years on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Sigonella celebrates its ninth trip to the finals in the last 10 years on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Ansbach celebrates its win and trip to the finals on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Ansbach celebrates its win and trip to the finals on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

Spangdahlem’s Clara Loomis throws down a spike in a semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Spangdahlem’s Clara Loomis throws down a spike in a semifinal match on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Michael Slavin/Stars and Stripes)

The afternoon semifinals started off hot as the Spangdahlem Sentinels looked to redeem themselves after an early morning loss to AFNORTH. Unfortunately, their hunger for redemption was met with a well-oiled machine named Ansbach. 

“I keep telling them one pass, one point, just relax” said Ansbach’s first year head coach Deb Keller-Mitchell, whose team has only lost once this year - to Division II championship finalist Aviano. “We are playing really good ball right now”

Both teams felt the pressure as they traded points and sets, working themselves into a tense five-set match. Eventually the serves from senior Georgia Bryant and the height up front were too much to handle for the Sentinels. 

Bryant said after the game that emotions were high, and it is the tight bond the team shares that makes this year’s team special. 

Sigonella then knocked off second seeded AFNORTH, 23-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 16-14.

Sigonella junior Isabelle Balleza said breathing exercises and the team’s between-set routine allowed the Jaguars to keep level heads as emotions ran high.

Coach Shawn McCarthy lauded his team for not giving up after falling in the first two sets. He also mentioned how important it was for Sigonella to compete at the European level again after not being allowed to travel north a year ago due to coronavirus protocols. 

The Jaguars will seek redemption from their earlier loss to the Cougars as they meet in the final at 10:30 a.m., with Spangdahlem and AFNORTH battle in the third-place game at 9 a.m.

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