Fourth meeting of season will determine D-I champ
Stars and Stripes October 27, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The Wiesbaden Warriors had a long day at the office.
They left home at 6 a.m. Friday to be at Southside Fitness Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in time for a 9 a.m. start to the second day of the DODEA European volleyball championships. Then, over the course of almost 13 hours, the Warriors played four matches, shifting back and forth between Southside and Ramstein High School to finish up pool play and then take part in the Division I semifinal round.
When the final ball hit the Ramstein High floor during Wiesbaden’s 25-18, 25-22, 26-24 semifinal win over Kaiserslautern, the Warriors (20-2) could say the fatigue was worth it.
“We did have a rough start in the morning, but we pulled through it,” Wiesbaden junior Bridget Pidgeon said. “We did get a lot of breaks today, so I feel like that helped us a lot. But yeah, it was a long day for us.”
Wiesbaden didn’t drop a single set against any opponent – SHAPE, Lakenheath, Vilseck and Kaiserslautern – on Friday. The team’s coach expressed pride at handling the difficult schedule with relative ease.
“They really came together today,” Wiesbaden coach Jon Ring said. “They just chopped the wood in front of them. Whoever stood in front of them, they just played every point, every game to win.”
Not that Kaiserslautern (13-8) rolled over in the semifinal. The match was moved to the main floor at Ramstein High School, and the teams waited for the Division II semifinals to finish before stepping on the court more than an hour after the match’s scheduled start.
In the second and third sets, the Raiders gave the Warriors all they could handle. Kaiserslautern led by as many as four points midway through and clung onto 20-18 late. Wiesbaden scored the next six points, as senior Elizabeth Troxel, junior Hannah Buchheit and senior Rylee Ashcraft posted a string of kills with an ace by Pidgeon. Ashcraft finished off the set with a dig that careened over the net and fell into a wide-open space on the floor.
Then, in the final set, the Raiders held a 23-22 advantage with serve, but Wiesbaden scored four of the next five points to seal the match.
“There’s a spirit about this team that comes together, and they rise to the occasion when they need to,” Ring said. “When the heat is on, that’s when they turn it on.”
With the win, the Warriors advance to Saturday’s final, where they will square off with familiar foe Ramstein.
The Royals (16-4) punched their ticket into the final with a quick 25-17, 25-17, 25-22 over Stuttgart at Southside Fitness Center. It was a rematch from the Panthers’ upset on Thursday in pool play, where both squads went 5-1.
Ramstein didn’t focus too much on that loss, other than emphasizing better serving., But the players already knew that from the three wins against Stuttgart (11-8) during the regular season.
“Instead of focusing on that loss, we focused on the wins we had during the season,” Ramstein senior middle hitter Jasmine Jones said. “We knew that we could beat not only Stuttgart but every team. So, we really focused on what we did during the other games, like our serves, our hits and the precision of it all.”
The accurate serving spilled over into other aspects of the Royals’ game, coach Kandel Baxter said. She mentioned how opposite hitter M.J. Davis, outside hitter Jillian Buckley, Jones, middle hitter Kaitlyn Rex and outside hitter Sophia Schluth all had strong efforts.
“Our passing was great,” Baxter said. “Our coverage, everyone was flying. We were setting all hitters. It wasn’t just the middle.
“It’s going to be really hard for me to pick someone from my team to be all-tournament because they’re all equal contributors.”
On Saturday, the Royals and Warriors will meet up for the fourth time this season. The teams split the regular-season series, while Ramstein got the better of Wiesbaden on Thursday in pool-play action.
Baxter said she doesn’t expect any surprises at Southside Fitness Center starting at 2:30 p.m.
“I think we know where people hit, what their gameplans are, but they also know us,” Baxter said. “I’m sure they’re going to come into it with a gameplan against us. We’re just going to play our game, and hopefully, that’s enough.”