Wiesbaden holds off Ramstein in frantic finish
Stars and Stripes October 28, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The Wiesbaden Warriors are once again Division I champions. But the Ramstein Royals made them earn every single point Saturday.
With Wiesbaden up 14-7 in the fifth and deciding set, it definitely didn’t look good for Ramstein.
But in what the players on both sides of the court described as one of the most intense matches they’ve been a part of, Ramstein refused to go out with a whimper.
Ramstein’s Kaitlyn Rex quickly punched two kills from the net while Brooklyn Vaovasa was perfect serving. The raucous home crowd at the Southside Fitness Center seemed to will the Royals back and the score was suddenly 14-13.
But then the Warriors finally got a stop. Ramstein hit the ball into the net, sending the Warriors into a celebratory tizzy.
The final score after more than two hours of thrilling volleyball: 25-18, 15-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-13.
“I’m very, very excited and I’m just really proud of my team,” said Wiesbaden senior setter Elizabeth Troxel, the tournament’s most outstanding player.
The match “was very, very intense,” Troxel said, “and I loved every second of it. The fifth set was a little close. It was nice to win after all of that struggle.”
Troxel said senior Lorelei Kemmer helped spark Wiesbaden’s offense. “She has the most amazing attacks I’ve ever seen,” she said. “They’re like right by the 10-foot line. It’s crazy.”
The win was extra sweet for Troxel, Kemmer and the team’s other four seniors, Troxel said, all of whom played together on Wiesbaden’s championship squad in 2022.
Wiesbaden’s first-year volleyball coaches had big shoes to fill to get the Warriors back to the title game this year, said coach Dylan Griffith.
“It was a tough year to come into,” he said. “We had a lot of bumps on the road, but we pulled out on top, so that’s all that matters.”
One of those bumps was the scrappy Royals, who split their regular-season series with the Warriors and beat them Thursday in pool-play action.
Ramstein tried to duplicate that last victory but “Wiesbaden is a well-oiled machine,” Ramstein junior middle hitter Kaitlyn Rex said. “They worked really hard.”
Both the Royals and Warriors were led on defense by their liberos, junior Emma Inthavixay and senior Sailor Allred, respectively. The two were seemingly all over the court, sliding on the floor to make digs while finding a way to hit just about anything that came their way.
Allred several times dove towards the bleachers to retrieve balls, stealing what would have been points away from the Warriors.
“I love being a libero. It’s my passion,” said Allred, who came into her own on the court this year after seeing only limited playing time in 2022. “I gave it everything I had.”
After winning the first set, Wiesbaden came out cold in the second, falling behind at one point, 12-3. Ramstein had its best serves in the set, with Jazmyn Hall, MJ Davis and Norah Leastman among the Royals who scored aces. A series of Wiesbaden errors helped Ramstein even up the sets.
Wiesbaden appeared to regroup in the third set, jumping out to an early 4-1 advantage, a lead it never relinquished. Senior Rylee Ashcraft knocked down two aces while the Warriors put five straight points on the board. Ashcraft also scored the set point with a tip at the net that found empty space on Ramstein’s court.
Ramstein evened it up again in the fourth set with some offensive firepower provided by Leastman and Jasmine Jones and Sophia Schluth.
“I think we took a lot of risks,” said Ramstein coach Kandel Baxter. “We tried to hit a lot. There wasn’t a lot of hitting going on by Wiesbaden. There was a lot of just trying to get it back over the net and let us make the mistake.”
The loss left the Ramstein coaches and players heartbroken, Baxter said. “We left it all on the floor. They fought for everything.”