VolleyballSigonella, Vicenza at American Overseas School of Rome Saturday There are a lot of reasons to like AOSR. The Falcons return six players from a team that went undefeated in the regular season and reached the DODDS-Europe Division II championship match. The team that beat them for the title, Naples, is no longer an issue, having moved up to Division I. The Falcons are loaded with talent and experience, notably outside hitter Margo Snipe, setter Margaret Quinn and libero Olivia Mansager. Finally, the Falcons are off to a 4-0 start. But it’s that last fact that is cause for caution. AOSR’s four wins have all come against the same opponent, Rome neighbor Marymount. Though each has been a decisive straight-set victory for the Falcons, they make it hard to determine AOSR’s viability as a contender. That will change this weekend as AOSR shares the court with different, and tougher, competition in 4-2 Vicenza, another strong team recently promoted to Division I, and reigning Division III champion Sigonella. Once those matches are in the books, AOSR’s Division II rivals will have a better idea of what they’re up against.

FootballVicenza at Naples Saturday Though they share a division and a region, the Cougars and Wildcats have so far played vastly different seasons. Vicenza has feasted on a very advantageous early schedule. Its three wins have come over likely non-contenders International School of Brussels, SHAPE and Aviano; those teams will take a 4-6 combined record into the weekend. Naples, meanwhile, has been solid over its first three games but has to just one win to show for its efforts. Its two losses have come to undefeated juggernauts Ansbach and Hohenfels, the latter by a respectable 40-28 margin. The Cougars and Wildcats share just one common opponent in SHAPE, and each beat the Spartans by a similar spread. Naples won 20-7 on Sept. 20; Vicenza won 20-10 on Sept. 27. A Naples win might reverse the two teams’ momentum. Naples would enter its regular-season finale against Aviano in position to drag a winning season from its arduous schedule. Vicenza would be at risk of a two-game losing streak against Hohenfels. A Vicenza win, however, would cement the Cougars as a championship threat and doom the Wildcats to a sub-.500 record.

Bitburg at Hohenfels Saturday It’s remarkable how one game can change the fortunes of the teams that play it. Hohenfels’ stunning 38-28 win at Bitburg last October ousted the Barons from the postseason, ended their DODDS-Europe-record winning streak and dashed their chance at a fifth straight Division II European title. The Tigers, meanwhile, won that very championship a week later. Those trends have continued in 2014. Bitburg is still a top-tier team but is invincible no longer, having taken a 50-8 loss to Ansbach. Former upstart Hohenfels has settled into its role as frontrunner with a 3-0 start to its season. Perhaps that represents the new status quo in Division II football. But as Hohenfels proved a year ago, even the firmest of foundations will eventually be toppled.

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