Ramstein gets early edge on D-I contenders
Stars and Stripes September 9, 2023
WIESBADEN, Germany – The Ramstein girls volleyball team entered this season with great expectations.
Returning a group of eight seniors, the Royals are banking on that continuity to come out on top at the end of October.
Just one thing concerned Ramstein: Wiesbaden. The defending DODEA-Europe Division I champion has gotten the better of the Royals in recent seasons.
Well, Ramstein got the chance to exorcise its demons against the Warriors on the opening weekend, and it accomplished that with a 25-20, 14-25, 25-19, 25-15 victory at Wiesbaden High School on Saturday.
Combined with a 25-14, 25-15, 25-23 sweep of Stuttgart, the Royals (2-0) took out the last two European winners.
“Stuttgart’s always really great, but Wiesbaden’s been a thorn in our side the last couple years,” Ramstein coach Kandel Baxter said. “This is just a motivation for us to keep going and doing what we’re doing.”
Against both opponents, the Royals showcased their multi-headed attack.
Senior hitters Sophia Schluth and Kaitlyn Rex and transfer M.J. Davis combined for 44 kills against the Panthers (0-2), with Schluth amassing 19, Davis adding 15 and Rex contributing 10. The trio then totaled 27 kills in the win over the Warriors (1-1), as Rex paced the Royals with 12, Schluth slammed nine and Davis picked up six.
When the hitters got rolling, the Royals seemingly couldn’t be stopped. Rex recorded a dink and two kills around a Davis ace to spark a 6-0 run in the third set that gave the away team the lead for good at 18-14.
Then, in the fourth set, Schluth, Amayah Payton and Davis posted kills on the final three points to seal the win.
The Royals also were missing a key component in senior Jasmine Jones, a first-team all-European player in 2022, as she recovers from an injury.
“I’m a middle, so if (the opponent) has a really tall middle, it’s nice to be able to rely on people who are outside, right-side or even back-row players who can attack,” Schluth said of the offensive options.
Helping put the offensive weapons in the right place was Jazmyn Hall. The senior captain had 23 assists in the win over Stuttgart, and she rarely had an inaccurate pass for her teammates.
“Jazmyn Hall is my right hand,” Baxter said. “She’s my brain on the court. She knows how I operate and what I want, and she says she listens for my voice to know what plays I want her to run. She’s essential to everything.”
Wiesbaden gave Ramstein all it could handle through four sets, jumping out to early leads in all four sets of four or more points. The Warriors used a 7-0 run in the middle of the second set to take a commanding 19-8 lead before taking the set.
The Warriors had a size advantage at the net with Sailor Allred and Lorelei Kemmer. The latter recorded four block-points to go with the numerous other blocks, while adding seven kills against the Royals.
Elizabeth Troxil complimented Kemmer’s stats, with five kills and five aces.
Considering the turnover on the roster and a new coaching staff, new coach Samantha Gonzales said Wiesbaden handled the high-pressure atmosphere well.
“They’re high schoolers; they’re still learning how to handle their emotions outside of a high-intense sports environment,” Gonzales said. “I think they handled it really well. It’s always something we can work on, something we can aways grow.”
Wiesbaden defeated Stuttgart in the first match 25-19, 25-16, 25-21.
The Panthers may have left the German state of Hesse with a pair of losses, but coach Bethany Trimble praised their effort and said they played their best set of the day at the end, when they erased a six-point deficit to tie the third game against Ramstein at 23-23. The Royals picked up the last two points to clinch the match.
Stuttgart showed a serving clinic with transfer outside hitter/defensive specialist Mia Snyder, who rolled out 11 aces over both matches – including seven against Ramstein.
Where the Panthers struggled was connecting on spikes and other offensive plays. With a completely new middle unit, growing pains are expected, but Trimble said she keep seeing growth and wants her team to peak at the end of the season.
“For my middles and all of my hitters, we just have to figure out how to score,” she said. “We’re picking up a lot of balls defensively and doing pretty well with our serving, but we’re not scoring offensively and that’s probably our biggest issue.”