Ansbach will be hanging a new banner
Stars and Stripes October 29, 2022
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Ansbach capped off the school’s best volleyball season in recent memory Saturday with a hard-fought DODEA European Division III title, beating Sigonella 25-23, 25-19, 25-21.
The score seesawed several times in the third and decisive set. Just when it looked like Sigonella had the momentum about midway through, the Cougars clawed their way back from a 12-15 deficit with a block and a pair of kills.
With the set tied at 20 all, two aces by freshman Kennedy Lange helped put Ansbach up 23-20.
After the two teams exchanged points again, Sigonella tried to hang on but sent a hard-hit ball up into the rafters, causing the Cougars to erupt in celebration on the court.
“It feels surreal,” gushed senior setter Georgia Bryant, who recorded 16 assists, seven kills and seven digs in the game. “Me and my teammates have been dreaming about this all season. It feels good. We worked really hard.”
Cougars coach Deb Keller-Mitchell said the team worked hard on mental toughness “and I think it showed. We just get out there and compete and nothing phases us.”
For Ansbach’s five seniors, “it’s a great memory for them to have,” Keller-Mitchell said.
Besides Bryant, the team’s seniors are Allison Schuck, Sophia Duran-Stanton, Tierney Bogard and Kennedy Kohrs.
Kohrs, a middle blocker, put up five kills and seven digs in the title match, while outside hitter Schuck went 15 for 15 from the service line and added six digs.
Sophomore Natalie Ritter led the Cougars with four aces. She also recorded eight digs in the match, while junior Trinity Batin, an outside hitter, made 13 digs, four kills and six assists.
Bryant and Lange were named to DODEA’s Division III all-tournament team, along with Sigonella’s Fabiola Mercado-Rodriguez and Isabelle Balleza. Bryant was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Spangdahlem’s Kaylee Lauer, Alconbury’s Alondra Acosta, Hohfenfels’ Kennedy Liverpool and AFNORTH’s Bella Benedetto rounded out the team.
Sigonella coach Shawn McCarthy said Bryant “was the big difference in the match.
“Besides setting up their hitters, she was dumping the ball over the net on the second ball to holes on the court and they really got a lot of points that way.”
Entering the tournament as a fifth seed, “we kind of over performed,” McCarthy said. “But even our over performing could not really match up to Ansbach. They had a better team. They earned their championship today.”
Mercado-Rodriguez, a senior who led the Jaguars on offense with five kills, eight assists and three aces, said she was proud of her team.
“I’m not really upset that we lost,” she said. “We played our best and we know we did, so we’re all good.”
Junior outside hitter Laney Reardon had five kills for the Jaguars, while Balleza had nine digs on defense.
Lange, a 6-foot freshman, put up 12 kills, two blocks, three aces and 14 digs for the Cougars.
The team showcased the mental toughness that Keller-Mitchell spoke of when falling behind to a surging Sigonella in the third set, she said.
“We knew we had to push really, really hard, because if they were to take a set against us, they could come back,” she said. “So we pushed ourselves as hard as we could.”
The victory “feels really good,” she said, “because this in the first time in a while.”
The last time Ansbach won a volleyball title was up for debate immediately after the championship. The last championship banner in the school’s gym dates from 1992, though some believe at least one title might not be represented.
“There’s no question about today,” Keller-Mitchell said. “We know the exact time, date and place” of the Cougars newest title.