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Wiesbaden’s Lorelei Kemmer, left, and Elizabeth Troxel try to block a hit by Kaiserslautern’s Sage Barnes during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Wiesbaden’s Lorelei Kemmer, left, and Elizabeth Troxel try to block a hit by Kaiserslautern’s Sage Barnes during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – A year ago, Wiesbaden felt the sting of defeat after being on the losing end of a five-set marathon championship match against Stuttgart.

This year, the top-seeded Warriors were not to be denied.

On Saturday, before a raucous crowd in the Ramstein High School gym, the Warriors earned the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball title by overpowering a scrappy Kaiserslautern team, 25-19, 9-25, 25-19, 25-17.

“Coming into this season, we were like, ‘OK, we got second place, so now we want to feel what first place feels like,’” said Wiesbaden coach Malia Taiafi-Husseini, noting Wiesbaden’s last volleyball title was in 2014.

“It feels good to come out of the season top seed … and now we got that first place,” Taiafi-Husseini said. “They worked really hard.”

The Warriors had to work especially hard to overcome second-seed Kaiserslautern, led by a group of seniors who took the Raiders to their first finals in years. After dropping the first set, Kaiserslautern went on the attack and stormed out to a 17-9 lead in the second.

Kaiserslautern senior middle blocker Sage Barnes held serve the rest of the set as the Raiders stifled the Warriors offense. When sophomore middle blocker Mariska Campbell blocked a spike by Wiesbaden’s Lyndsey Urick at the net to give the Raiders 24 points, the hometown crowd went wild. Barnes closed out the set with an ace, her third since she took over on serve.

Kaiserslautern, however, couldn’t capitalize on the momentum shift. The Warriors came out swinging and never looked back, quickly jumping out to a 9-3 early lead in the fourth set.

Taiafi-Husseini made some adjustments, bringing in a second setter, Audrey Garrison, in addition to setter Elizabeth Troxel. Kaiserslautern was trying to “take out” Troxel by “forcing someone else to set the ball,” the coach said. Adding Garrison gave them a setter in the front and back “to put up the ball for our hitters,” she said.

The counterstrategy appeared to work.

Troxel and Urick racked up several kills from the net to open the lead after Kaiserslautern closed the gap, 20-18. Troxel nabbed the set’s winning point with an ace.

In the fifth set, Wiesbaden also jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it.

Kaiserslautern’s Sage Barnes spikes the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Kaiserslautern’s Sage Barnes spikes the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Moriah Deane tries to block a shot by Wiesbaden’s Lorelei Kemmer at the net in the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Moriah Deane tries to block a shot by Wiesbaden’s Lorelei Kemmer at the net in the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Kaiserslautern’s Se’maiya Farrow sets the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Kaiserslautern’s Se’maiya Farrow sets the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Wiesbaden’s Maria Pidgeon goes up for the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Wiesbaden’s Maria Pidgeon goes up for the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Wiesbaden’s Elizabeth Troxel prepares to serve the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. Troxel, a junior setter, was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Wiesbaden’s Elizabeth Troxel prepares to serve the ball during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. Troxel, a junior setter, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Wiesbaden’s Lyndsey Urick used her height to her advantage at the net during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Wiesbaden’s Lyndsey Urick used her height to her advantage at the net during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Fans wearing blue and gold cheer for Wiesbaden during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets.

Fans wearing blue and gold cheer for Wiesbaden during the DODEA-Europe Division I girls’ volleyball championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

The Wiesbaden Warriors celebrated their DODEA European Division I volleyball title after defeating Kaiserslautern in four sets on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets, earning their first championship since 2014.

The Wiesbaden Warriors celebrated their DODEA European Division I volleyball title after defeating Kaiserslautern in four sets on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Ramstein High School in Germany. Wiesbaden won the match in four sets, earning their first championship since 2014. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Troxel was selected as the tournament’s most valuable player and was named, along with Garrison, to the Division I all-tourney team. Barnes and Xin-Ai Robinson were selected from Kaiserslautern, with Ramstein’s Jasmine Jones, Stuttgart’s Berea Bryan, Lakenheath’s Chloe Aldrich and Madison Bell of Vilseck rounding out the team.

Urick led the Warriors with 24 kills, and junior Lorelei Kemmer had 14 kills.

“Unity and trust,” was the key to the Warriors’ victory, Urick said. “We never got down on each other. This is a great team and we’ve been through a lot together.”

Senior Maria Pidgeon, who moved to Germany from Japan for her senior year, said determination also played a role.

“We all wanted to win,” she said, “especially with how last year went, we couldn’t take that loss a second time.”

Kaiserslautern coach Zac Robinson said the Raiders were disappointed to come up short but also proud of how hard they played.

“We had stretches where we made some minimal mistakes and had some let downs, but I thought we played really good volleyball a lot of times,” he said.

“They’re an excellent team,” Robinson said of Wiesbaden. “They’re athletic, they cover the court very well and they got a lot of great swings.”

Robinson said his seniors – Se’maiya Farrow, Piper Nowlin, Xin Ai Robinson and Barnes – “had moments of greatness today. Piper and Xin Ai picking up balls in the back row and Sage just getting kill after kill and Se’maiya running the offense so well. They’ve just been such a great group. It will be hard seeing them go.”

Barnes, an outside hitter, had 21 kills; Robinson, the libero, 22 digs; Farrow, a setter, had 19 assists, and Nowlin, an outside hitter, had seven kills.

Barnes, brimming with emotion after the match, said the Raiders were hoping they could fight back after falling behind Wiesbaden after the second set.

“We just went down, and we couldn’t get back up,” she said. “But I think we played really good volleyball. We played our hearts out.”

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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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