VolleyballLakenheath, Ramstein, Bitburg at AFNORTH Saturday AFNORTH coach Kevin Padron referred to this Lions volleyball season as a “rebuilding year” after losing all but three starters. But what the Lions are able to build this fall might be pretty substantial. AFNORTH participated in an unofficial preseason meet with SHAPE, Brussels and Division I Wiesbaden last weekend. And though official scores weren’t recorded, the Lions got the better of the Spartans and Brigands and earned a split with the Warriors. The Lions face more upper-division competition this weekend as the Lancers and Royals visit Brunssum. The two teams played for the Division I championship last fall, with Ramstein claiming the title, and both are primed for contention again.

Sigonella, Aviano at Naples Saturday Aviano and Naples got off to fast starts last Saturday with convincing wins over rivals Vicenza and Sigonella, respectively. Now the 2-0 teams turn their attention to one another. Aviano’s defense-first approach, led by the efforts of libero Sydney Green, yielded consecutive victorious matches against the Cougars. If the offense develops as predicted, the Saints could emerge as a threat to Naples’ established dominance in the country. But the reigning-champion Wildcats have fought off challenges before. The team’s senior core of Jessica Wheeler, Aundrea Hall and Keylee Soto secured a Friday-Saturday sweep of the tough Jaguars; Naples won all six sets over the two days and never yielded more than 19 points.

FootballLakenheath at Vilseck Saturday Only two teams are excluded from the playoffs in DODDS-Europe’s six-team Division I field. Last year, it was the Lancers and Falcons frozen out. If they’re not careful, 2014 could hold the same fate. Other than the fact that it ended without a playoff berth, Vilseck’s 2013 was impressive. Living up to their reputation as hard-nosed heavy hitters, the Falcons deployed a defense that was the second-stingiest in Division I. They lost by a point to Kaiserslautern, and stymied Patch in a 6-0 loss. In the season’s high point, they took a shocking 14-13 decision over eventual champion Wiesbaden. Nobody wanted to play the Falcons in the postseason. As it worked out, nobody had to. The loss to Patch handed the Panthers the fourth seed and left the Falcons to join the winless Lancers on the sideline. The 2014 schedule holds opportunity for Vilseck. A win over Lakenheath would send the Falcons into Wiesbaden next weekend on a high note. Then they’ll play two of their final three games at home, with a Friday-night Oct. 10 visit to vulnerable Kaiserslautern in between.

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