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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Sometimes, a team can play dramatically different from one year to the next. Other times, not much changes. The Naples volleyball teams demonstrated both this weekend.

After a 2-8 season record in 2012, the Naples boys’ volleyball team improved to 10-0 this year, beating Aviano 25-9, 25-18, 25-20 Friday and 25-20, 25-14, 25-14 Saturday.

Naples girls, meanwhile, have won the last two Division II DODDS-Europe titles. And the Wildcats look poised for another title run after 25-19, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23 and 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 victories in the two days against the Saints.

“I think the returning boys have come back thinking about what they can do to be competitive and over the summer they built a good foundation on leadership,” Naples boys’ volleyball coach Peter Nagafuchi said.

Naples plays well as a team, but two individuals did stand out during the weekend. Sam Murdock compiled 14 kills Saturday and was even more impressive Friday with 14 kills, four aces and four digs according to Nagafuchi.

Josh Hensy starred on both offense and defense, accumulating 10 kills, eight digs and two aces Saturday. His Friday performance included 11 kills and five digs.

Naples’ Austin Bain laid the foundation for Murdock and Hensy’s spikes, producing 32 assists, while Mike Curtain sent three aces from beyond the back row accomplishing a 100% serve receive efficiency during Saturday’s match.

On the other side of the net, Aviano’s Alex Slabaugh successfully blocked a number of Wildcat spikes, while Spencer Ridgway had some spikes of his own to power the Saints. Dundrey Peoples and Adam Chavez also scored some points.

But the Saints sometimes struggled to stay on their side of the net, costing them numerous points. Aviano also attempted to return several balls that otherwise would have landed off the court.

Naples carried the momentum over to the girls game.

Faced with a double-digit deficit in the second set, the Wildcats maintained their energy and it eventually paid off.

“During the deficit we took a timeout to talk about our killing instinct,” Naples girls coach Julia Byler said. Byler defined the killing instinct as a strong mental game, while playing sound volleyball with aggression.

Naples’ Victoria Krause hammered a series of spikes to eventually tie the second set and then give her team the victory. She finished with 14 kills and one ace during Saturday’s match. Aviano’s Jasmine Cole briefly stopped the barrage with a block, keeping the Saints up 17-14 before Naples won a majority of the final points after a series of long rallies.

Aviano coach Hans Hillestad said he was happy with his team’s improvement.

“This week we took time to work on the process—part of the process is being aggressive,” he said. “They really got a hold of it this week.”

Cole played a vital role in keeping the sets close with 11 kills. She was also strong at the net Friday, according to Hillestad, with seven kills, two aces and two blocks. The Saints’ Rebecca Ives had 13 digs, while Sadie Hellwig had eight assists.

The Wildcats’ Skylar Evans dominated the net at times, finishing with three block points, three kills and disrupting several other Aviano opportunities.

The sets were close and both teams played competitively, but the Wildcats just had too much depth. Amilia Espict, Keylee Soto and Courtney Fukumitsu all made contributions, demonstrating that Naples has a lot of weapons.

Duhr.jason@stripes.com

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