BFA boys defend title in straight sets
Stars and Stripes October 28, 2023
VICENZA, Italy – Years from now, if boys volleyball is a thriving sport across DODEA-Europe, some credit might be due to a school that’s not actually part of the military overseas system.
Black Forest Academy, a longtime partner with DODEA schools in Europe, won its second straight boys volleyball title Saturday, topping a Rota squad that seemed to run out of gas in straight sets 25-21, 25-18, 25-14.
BFA, located in Kandern, Germany, is an international Christian boarding school with about half the student population living apart from their parents serving as missionaries around the globe.
Falcons coach Lance Dockrey said it’s not unusual for students to play volleyball in the school’s open gym after practice when they’re not doing homework.
“The volleyball culture at BFA is pretty strong,” Dockrey said after watching his team go unbeaten through the tournament for a second straight year.
He acknowledged that BFA had another advantage over most of the DODEA schools in the event, which had a record 12 teams entered. The Falcons don’t play football and have no plans to do so.
Seven of the eight DODEA schools entered also have football teams that often draw many of the best athletes. That’s especially crucial for the DODEA schools around the Mediterranean, all classified as small or midsized enrollments for DODEA. Lakenheath and Vilseck, two new entrants to boys volleyball, are Division I programs north of Italy. However, the Lancers and Falcons have two of the smallest Division I enrollments. Germany’s larger D-I schools should theoretically have more than enough male athletes to support both sports.
“It’ll be nice when the Germany bases have schools with established (boys volleyball) programs,” Dockrey said. Until last year, BFA played primarily against international schools. Starting this year, that was reversed, with most contests against DODEA competition. They still didn’t play a full schedule and Dockrey said he’s eager to see more DODEA competition in Germany.
BFA didn’t breeze through the tournament, though. Host Vicenza put up a valiant fight in the semifinals earlier Saturday, falling 22-25, 23-25, 25-13, 25-13, 15-5. The other semifinal was just as competitive with Rota topping Naples 23-25, 13-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-12.
By comparison, the finals just didn’t seem to have the same level of energy. BFA’s serving was shaky as well, with serve after serve going into the net or off the court. So it couldn’t build much momentum. Rota had something to that with that as well.
The Falcons put together the only substantial streak of the opening set to turn an 11-11 tie into a 15-11 advantage. The teams then traded points before junior Timothy Sivonen, named the tournament most valuable player, dinked the ball over a double block onto an empty court to finish off the set.
BFA gradually pulled ahead in the second set, leading 14-9 after an ace from Micah Yakubu. It was up 23-18 when senior Barney Sivonen rocketed a spike off the head of Rota setter Christian Weaver. An Admiral return a point later was too wide and the set was over.
The final set was the least competitive, with the Falcons forging out to a series of leads. Timothy Sivonen finished it off with a kill that went off a Rota block and off the court.
While some fans celebrated in the stands, the Falcons merely lined up on their end of the court, with a few sporting smiles. Both teams eventually ran through a tunnel built by supporters’ arms.
Rota coach Edward DeMerritt said the Falcons are a well-oiled machine on the court.
“They have six skilled players at six positions,” he said. “They just play well. They’re well-coached. We overcame a lot of adversity to get here. And I’m really proud of the boys. But the better team won today.”
Vicenza defeated Naples 25-23, 25-15 for third place. Both Sivonen brothers were named to the all-tournament team as were Rota’s Brian Lieba and Tyler DeMeritt. Vicenza’s Nicholas Morton, Naples’ Steven Irvine Jr. and Davion Bowie and Aviano’s Xavier Fox rounded out the team.