Sigonella’s Ryleigh Denton takes a shot in the Division III championship game at the DODEA-Europe basketball finals in Ramstein, Germany, Feb. 18, 2023. Sigonella took the division crown with a 36-25 win.

Sigonella’s Ryleigh Denton takes a shot in the Division III championship game at the DODEA-Europe basketball finals in Ramstein, Germany, Feb. 18, 2023. Sigonella took the division crown with a 36-25 win. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

In years past, the Sigonella girls basketball team hit the ground running the first week of practices.

When the defending DODEA-Europe Division III champion Jaguars stepped onto the floor this November, however, that wasn’t the case. At least nine players are legitimate newcomers to the sport of basketball, and coach Michelle Chandler needs to teach them the basics.

“It is kind of hard to adjust because last year, we had a lot more experienced players, and it definitely was easier to practice at the beginning,” said point guard Ryleigh Denton, who earned all-tournament honors last February. “But now, we’re just starting from the basics.”

For the six returners – Denton, second-team All-European forward Delaney Reardon, junior guard Charlize Caro, guard Alexandra Quintanilla and forward Anabel Vaiciulis – it could have brewed negative feelings.

Instead, the veterans are using that opportunity to revisit the basics themselves as well as help their new teammates get up to speed as quickly as possible.

“We have to have a lot of patience,” Reardon said. “I try to bring positivity because we have so many newcomers. Negatively and putting people down doesn’t help anything, doesn’t help people grow.”

To prepare the seasoned players for the season, Sigonella has turned to the boys team to scrimmage in the weeks leading up to the regular season’s start.

Chandler, who has won four European titles at Sigonella and three Far East Division II titles at Daegu, said practicing against some boys players a couple days per week has helped her players out tremendously. She mentioned how it has forced the girls to make better passes, especially in the halfcourt.

It also has helped with conditioning, a theme the players and coach mentioned numerous times.

“When we’re pushing the ball up the floor, the boys are catching us,” Chandler said. “I tell the girls most girls probably can’t catch you as fast as the boys at the tail end.”

Coming off two consecutive championship-game appearances, including playing up a division in 2021-2022, the pressure is high on the Jaguars to repeat the same feat and defend their title.

Helping this season is a schedule that has Sigonella facing four Division III opponents – Alconbury, Brussels, Baumholder and Spangdahlem – to join their typically heavy Division II schedule. The coach said this will give the team measuring sticks during the season.

Chandler also can use the experience at the 2017 tournament when her daughter Kisiah was a senior. They managed to outperform expectations and snuck past Baumholder to the title.

“It’s a challenge, but I believe my middle daughter’s senior year, we won the championship and I had much less talent,” Chandler said. “And we played Baumholder who had the most talent I had seen.”

Sigonella isn’t the only team trying to repeat despite massive turnover, as Wiesbaden and American Overseas School of Rome face similar situations.

Here’s a look at teams across Europe, based on responses from coaches:

Division I


The Raiders are under new management with Natasha Riggins, and the coach has the team focused on building a new identity in a new system.

Kaiserslautern has eight players coming back from its 8-13 campaign in 2022-2023. Seniors Emma Arambula, Rihanna Martin and Gabrielle Myrick, juniors Elizabeth Marriott and Shayla King, and sophomore Hazel Sanders are on that list.

Two players, senior Jedaiah Quinland and junior Marisa Branch, missed out last season because of injuries and are back for the Raiders.

Kaiserslautern is gaining a lot in transfers. Senior Katya von Eicken is making the move across the A6 divide, joining from archrival Ramstein after earning first-team All-European honors last season. Junior Vernesha Oliver joins from Greenwood, Ind., and freshman LaMya Fleeton is a long way from home after moving from Honolulu.


The Lancers enter the season in a weird situation.

New coach Vicki Painter has high expectations, but she also will need to replace nearly half her starting lineup after the first couple weeks of the season. She mentioned two players will be moving out after the New Year, meaning Lakenheath will have to reconfigure after the monthlong winter break.

The Lancers will bank on the experience of its three seniors, Hailey Buchanan, A’Lydia McNeal and Lynnea Morgan, to help them this campaign, with Painter calling all three likely starters. Also, junior Britain Gonzalez adds good rebounding and scoring skills in the paint.

Sophomore Alanah Melvin also is expected to get some solid minutes on the floor.

The roster is bolstered by a pair of transfers, starting with senior Isabella Stahl. Junior Solymar Brown arrives from Ramstein and is slotting into the point guard spot.


The Royals are a team in flux under first-year coach Christina Hewitt.

Ramstein has just six upperclassmen on the roster. Still, Hewitt sees the potential with the team and said it could be a force later in the season if the players work hard and improve.

Back from last season’s European runner-up are seniors Jasmine Jones and Bralyn Jones and junior Parker Ingram. Junior Charlie Rhyne transferred to Ramstein, while fellow juniors Emma Inthavixay and Grayen Canady are in the squad.

Sophomores Breanna Olivas, Mckenzie McLaurin and Feliciana Davis and freshman Jaivionne Jones could see time for the Royals.


The Panthers are coming off a third-place finish in 2022-2023, but to meet or better that result, they must use a young squad.

Coach Robin Hess will turn to returners Ella Kirk, Berit Bauer, Mollie Winkler, Hannah Holmes, Addie Jennings and Gracey Basgall to lead the way. New to the team are Madison McQueen, Serenity Sampson, Anna Zipperer, Sofia Alberico and Alicia Wiggins.


The Falcons have a fresh look this winter.

Laura Johnson enters her first year leading the program, and just four players are back after finishing seventh. Despite this turnover, Johnson said this roster has much potential.

Returners include juniors Jayslin Santellano, Aundrea Lloyd and Phoebe Sue and sophomore Nyley Benson.

Senior Lizzy Koenig transferred from Spangdahlem, while Justice Moore and Zabria Fakeye give the Falcons a trio of seniors. Juniors Alisia Andrew, Julissa Neal and Nautica Munoz join the squad this year, as do sophomore Mariana Gonzalez DeJesus and Natalie Ingram.

Also on the roster are 12 freshmen, giving the Falcons plenty of depth.


The program added its first European title since 2015 last winter, but the Warriors will look different this time around.

Gone are the active backcourt in McKinley Viers and Brandi Stanford. Also Lyndsey Urick’s post presence is missing.

This has second-year coach Kritin Kachmar thinking 2023-2024 will be a rebuilding season.

Senior Gwen Icanberry and junior Natalia Bergdorf are the team’s returning starters, while three others are back.

A quintet of juniors will be making an impact as well: Angelica Shea, Katie Shea, Kariyah Housey, Hannah Buchheit and Kaitlynn Boman.

Division II


The Falcons want nothing more than to defend their European title, but it will be a tall task for a young squad.

And when coach Lillian Aldred says young, she means it. AOSR don’t have a single senior on the roster.

Not that the Falcons will be lacking firepower. Sophomore center Natalia DiMatteo, whose free throw with 5 seconds left clinched the title, returns, as do Silvia Goldman, Nina Neroni, Evelyn Campbell, Caitlin Duggan and Laila Lester. Claire Sheklton is stepping back on the floor after an injury.

New to the team is sophomore Luce Misciattelli, as well as freshmen Gloria Olivieri, Leah Renk and Charlotte Burges-Sims.


The Saints pretty much are starting from scratch this winter.

Just three players – Ily Zamora, Clara Young, and Arianna Meraz – are familiar with the “Saints way.” That gives longtime coach Enid Derricott an almost blank canvas.

What Aviano did gain over the offseason is some height. Sophomore Addison Krajicek, a transfer from Arizona who experienced success during the volleyball season, is one of those additions. Nevaeh Zamora Jazmin Warren, Mary Helen Barthold, Laila Barnes, Leah Nothstine, Hayley Solis, Genesis Diaz and Jae’Lianny Rodriguez also are new to the squad.


The Falcons always struggle to find opponents because of their location, but it will be even tougher this winter as the local season has shifted to be later than the DODEA schedule.

Still, Bahrain gets six games against DODEA European competition, including four games against last year’s Division II finalists (AOSR and Naples).

Losing their point guard and power forward to graduation, the Falcons turn to sophomore captain Anya Dinkler to handle the ball. Returners Brooklyn Barrett (sophomore) and Dalisa Lewis (junior) are expected to slot back into starting roles.

Senior Elsie Williams will make an impact after only being able to play just one quarter last season due to an ankle injury. Fellow senior Coral DiDomenico adds experience as well.

Senior Haya Al Nusuf and junior Jayda Miller lead the team’s additions, which include a group of five freshmen.


The Wildcats are looking to return to the title game after falling just short in last season’s tournament.

Anais Navidad averaged seven points and three steals for Naples last season and is expected to produce at a similar level in 2023-2024. VaNae Filer earned an all-tournament selection after posting four points and seven rebounds per game.

Madisun Myers also is back for the Wildcats.

New to the squad are Darcel Shine and Gracie Grannis.


The Admirals took their lumps last season with a young and inexperienced group.

The good news is all 10 of those players are back – a rare feat in DODEA. With the returners putting in the effort to improve, coach Edward DeMeritt is confident the team will surprise opponents and put Rota girls basketball back on the map.

A quartet of seniors in Alana Geylani, Madison Lewis, Sophia Dickkut and Elsie Bond will lead the way. Juniors Allie DeMeritt and Rachel Owins round out the veteran upperclassmen, while sophomores Jourdan Timmons, Kate Warkentien, Anna Townsend and Jaliyah Boykin bring back experience from their freshman campaign.

Senior Pam Munoz and sophomore Emcee Amatorio transferred from Japan and will add firepower to the Admirals’ bench.


The Cougars had a disappointing end to last season, finishing fourth in the tournament after going 16-2 during the regular season.

Vicenza lost the all-tournament backcourt from that team, but coach Greg DeJardin said he believes this year’s squad is primed to challenge for the title.

To do so, the Cougars will deploy their aggressive full-court defensive press. They also will be tested throughout the regular season, opening the season with a trip to Division I Stuttgart and hosting Vilseck the following week.

DeJardin said he expects big seasons from junior guard Maya Fitch (eight points, four rebounds and five steals per game) and senior forward Laurel Gill (six points and eight rebounds), both of whom are captains. He also pointed out sophomores Ally Taylor, a returner, and Trishauna Lewis, a transfer from Fort Knox, Ky., as co-captains with high potential.

New to the team are freshman guard Kayla Steimle and freshman forward Ivy McLeod.

Division III


New coach Leslie Atkins-Hash expressed confidence in her team heading into the opening weekend, saying Alconbury will be competitive.

The Dragons are banking off the ballhandling skills and leadership of team captains Paige Sander and Kalila T’eo to drive the team forward. Other returning players include seniors Madelyn Zinkand and Evangeline Cumming and sophomores Aspen Williams and Maggie May.

Atkins-Hash seems high on freshman Isabella Palomino, who is new to basketball. Junior Sofia Politis joins as the team’s center, while sophomore Elizabeth Schroeder will bring a tenacious presence in the key.


The Lions were dethroned in last year’s title game, and coach Matt Wise knows better than most how competitive Division III is, with three schools winning the tournament in the past four additions.

So, he’s not proclaiming AFNORTH as a favorite to get that crown back, but he expects the Lions to work hard and be a better team come February.

All-tournament selection Izabella Guest will be one of the players expected to make an impact. The senior captain averaged 7.2 points per game. Junior Selah Skariah added 8.1 points per game last season, while junior Maggie Masse grabbed 5.4 rebounds.


Following success at track and field in the spring and volleyball in the fall, the Cougars are hoping it carries over to the basketball court this winter.

Under head coach Deb Keller-Mitchell and assistant Shannon Daniels, team chemistry could be key to see if Ansbach can improve on its 8-8 finish last winter.

Seniors Kyla Tuazon (guard) and Laila McEntire (forward) and sophomore Kennedy Lange (center) lead the way. Joining them are sophomore forward Elizabeth Agudzi-Addo and freshman guard Margarette Jahn Aeneah Marzan.


The Brigands were one of two lower seeds that made deep tournament runs last winter, finishing third.

They will be looking to build off that this year.

Brussels brings back sophomore Tessa Wedekind, who led the team in steals; sophomore Haley Mitchell, who paced the Brigands in rebounds and blocks; and senior Patricia Rullan, who led the team in assists.


The Sentinels are dead set about proving the game of basketball is more than just height, as they lack a 6-footer. Instead, Chris Howard’s team will use its speed to compete.

Coming back are junior guard Cayleya Morton, senior guard/forward Gabby Schmidt, senior forward Talyssa Link, senior point guard Zayah Santos and junior guard Miranda Valles.

New to the team are sophomore point guard Bella Valenzuela and freshmen guards Jayda Lewis and Dahlia Malave.

author picture
Matt is a sports reporter for Stars and Stripes based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. A son of two career Air Force aircraft maintenance technicians, he previously worked at newspapers in northeast Ohio for 10 years and is a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

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