AOSR finishes unbeaten with third straight title
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 1, 2014
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – American Overseas School of Rome cemented its hold on boys volleyball among American high schools in Europe Saturday by finishing off an unbeaten season with its third straight DODDS-Europe title.
But there were a few other sports not too far away from the minds of some of the coaches in attendance.
“It was like a boxing match,” Sigonella coach Matt McKown said after watching his team fall to the Falcons 26-24, 25-19, 25-19 in the championship match. “They had just a little more reach than us and a little more weight. But, boy, we played with some heart.”
Of course, Sigonella, one of the smallest schools in DODDS, wouldn’t be fielding a volleyball team if it had enough players for a football squad. McKown was the coach the last time the school fielded a team.
And Aviano and Naples, which finished third and fourth, have many of their best athletes playing that sport.
AOSR coach Marcus Ciuffreda, one of the more animated coaches in the sport, laughed when the subject of football was brought up. The Falcons field a strong side in the European version of football (which Americans call soccer), but have no plans to start playing on the gridiron.
“It’s much easier to create a volleyball player than a football player,” he said with a smile. “And these guys wouldn’t like the contact, anyway.”
The Falcons certainly didn’t shy away from contact with the volleyball at the net, especially the team’s two senior stalwarts: Alessandro Elia and Gregory China. Both players top 6 feet and both are capable of pounding the ball.
Opposing them on the other side of the net was Sigonella sophomore Chris Moore, with some help from senior Thomas Wray.
Sigonella had its best shot in the match in the first set, leading most of the way behind sometimes dominant play from Moore, whose main sport is basketball. He had five of his team-high 12 kills in that set. Sigonella was up 22-17 at one point, but Elia led the Falcons back. His kill gave AOSR the ball back when Sigonella had a chance to put the game away at 24-22. And another kill two points later ended the set.
“Amazing player,” Ciuffreda said of Elia. “Heart and soul of the team.”
The second set was a bit sloppier, with more points scored by mistakes than dramatic shots. China had several key blocks. The pace picked up again in the third set. With the score tied at 11-11, AOSR gradually pulled away.
Elia uncorked a jump serve that Sigonella couldn’t return on match point and it was over. He finished with 12 kills and Church added seven.
AOSR went unbeaten in league play, including fairly routine victories over Sigonella, which didn’t even win half the matches it played. But the Jaguars made the Falcons sweat Saturday.
“They’re better,” Ciuffreda said.
DODDS sports take a break now, resuming with basketball and wrestling the first weekend of December.
Sigonella's Chris Moore tries to get the ball past American Overseas School of Rome blockers Gregory China, left, and Yishu Weng. The Falcons won their third straight DODDS European Boys Volleyball Championship on Saturday, 26-24, 25-19, 25-19.
Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes
KENT HARRIS/STARS AND STRIPES