Europe volleyball - Day 1
Five teams win twice to advance to semifinals
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN MILITARY COMMUNITY -- Experienced senior leaders stepped to the forefront Thursday as the 2017 DODEA-Europe girls volleyball championship began its three-day run with a slate of preliminary play across three divisions.
For Ramstein senior Cristeana Reyes, this tournament was nearly over before it started. Instead, Reyes and the Royals are just getting started.
Ramstein’s standout libero sustained an ankle injury in practice on the eve of the European tournament. While Reyes said the ankle remained “a little sore” as she iced it between Thursday matches, she insisted it would take a lot more than that to keep her sidelined for her final DODEA-Europe tournament.
But Reyes did admit that the thought did occur to her in the immediate aftermath of the ill-timed injury.
“There are a whole bunch of things that go through your head,” Reyes said. “I just thought positive thoughts.”
Reyes followed that up with positive actions. She recorded 22 digs in the second-seeded Royals’ impressive 25-21, 25-22, 26-24 defeat of third-seeded Lakenheath.
A proud senior leader, Reyes was thrilled that she was able to deliver for her team.
“I do feel as though my teammates rely a lot on me,” Reyes said. “That just gives me the extra boost to want to be better.”
With their late win over Vilseck, the Royals joined sixth-seeded Vicenza as the pool’s only teams to win both of their opening matches. Lakenheath and seventh-seeded Vilseck split their two matches, while ninth-seeded Kaiserslautern fell out of semifinal contention with two losses.
Top-seeded reigning champion Stuttgart and fifth-seeded Naples seized control of the opposite bracket. Each recorded defeats of fourth-seeded Wiesbaden and eighth-seeded SHAPE to secure spots in Friday night’s semifinals.
Tournament wins bring elation for every team that earns them. For Bahrain, they also bring a sense of relief.
DODEA-Europe’s most geographically remote program doesn’t play any of its eventual tournament opponents, or DODEA-Europe opponents at all, in the regular season. The team has no way of knowing how it might compare to the other teams it will encounter in Germany.
This year’s team, it turns out, compares quite favorably.
Fifth-seeded Bahrain recorded straight-set victories over fourth-seeded AFNORTH and eighth-seeded Aviano on Thursday, clinching a return trip to the Division II semifinals in the process.
“I think we got our nerves out,” Bahrain senior Olyvia Johnson said.
Johnson and her teammates stay in the Division II loop as best they can throughout the fall, reading scores and summaries online and drawing on the experience of their previous tournament runs. But that legwork only goes so far.
“We just have to mentally prepare and know that they’re going to be good,” Johnson said of Bahrain’s mysterious Division II tournament opponents. “That’s all we can do.”
Top seed American Overseas School of Rome equaled Bahrain’s start Thursday with matching sweeps of AFNORTH and Aviano. AOSR will take on Bahrain in each team’s pool-play finale Friday before proceeding to that evening’s semifinals.
In the opposite pool, third-seeded Black Forest Academy clinched its semifinal berth with a convincing three-set defeat of second-seeded Rota. Sixth-seeded Marymount and Rota will play Friday morning to determine the pool’s other semifinal entry.
This is supposed to be fun.
Amid the intensifying competition and pressure to win a championship, it can be easy to forget that simple fact. Senior Juliette Mobley and her Brussels teammates made sure they didn’t. “Sometimes we get worried after every mistake we make and we start feeling each other pull away,” Mobley said. “We realize that can’t happen. We’ve got to come together and celebrate every mistake and success that we have.”
Brussels enjoyed a lot more of the latter than the former on Thursday. The Brigands opened the tournament in the morning with a 25-17, 25-5 dismantling of Ansbach, then closed the small-school slate in the afternoon with a 25-13, 25-18 sweep of Baumholder.
That gives Brussels the early inside track for a spot in the finals along with Sigonella, which matched the Brigands’ 2-0 start with defeats of Alconbury and Ansbach. But the teams still must navigate a long Friday of more round-robin play before the division’s top two finishers advance directly to Saturday morning’s European championship match.