One day gone and almost everyone still has shot at a title
November 6, 2015
The 2015 DODDS-Europe girls volleyball tournament opened Thursday with a slate of 35 games across three divisions at two sites around the Kaiserslautern Military Community. Finalists will be determined Friday; three European champions will be crowned in succession Saturday at Ramstein Southside Fitness Center.
Division IThe defending champion Wiesbaden Warriors were given a tough path to another title: the No. 3 seed and a spot in a deep pool including dangerous Vilseck, archrival Ramstein and Naples, the team they edged in last year’s five-set championship match.
So far, they’re handling it just fine.
Wiesbaden cruised past the hometown Royals 25-20, 25-16 in its tournament opener Thursday, reasserting its status as a Division I power despite its slot below top seed Stuttgart and No. 2 Naples. The sweep of the Royals was a positive step for a revamped Warrior squad looking to shake off the two October losses to Stuttgart that cost it an undefeated season.
“We definitely communicated better,” Wiesbaden’s Melanie Hirschel-Weber said. “We were working together, which is great.”
Rosette Gray produced three blocks and three kills for the Warriors, while Brigantia O’Sadnick led the team with five blocks.
A quick 25-5, 25-17 stomping of bottom seed SHAPE completed a 2-0 day for the reigning champs. They’ll face Naples on Friday morning in a rematch of last year’s epic title clash, though both teams are in line to advance to Friday evening semifinals.
In the opposite pool, fourth-seeded Vicenza got off to a solid start with a 25-23, 25-10 sweep of fifth-seeded Lakenheath.
DeAsia Fairley, Brianna Baker and Jordan Wakefield each had four kills in a balanced attack that is typical of the Cougars’ deep and democratic roster. Adrianna Lovelace added three kills and a pair of aces.
“We knew the competition level is really high during this tournament,” Lovelace said. “We just came wanting to play our best and not focusing on who we’re playing.”
The Cougars finished an even 1-1 on the day after their late encounter with top-seeded Stuttgart. The Panthers, who haven’t tasted defeat since the season’s opening weekend Sept. 19, crushed homestanding Kaiserslautern and Vicenza in a brutally efficient pair of sweeps.
Division IIThe seventh-seeded Aviano Saints pulled off the opening day’s biggest upset, knocking off second-seeded Black Forest Academy 25-19, 18-25, 15-8. Junior Tih Cottingham had three aces, four blocks and five kills in a strong all-around effort.
The win avenged the four-set loss the Saints took to BFA on Oct. 24 in a match marred by Aviano injuries.
“It felt very good to see them while we were healthy,” first-year Saints coach Jennifer Hanretty said.
A 4-9 regular season record shoved the Saints down the bracket despite their runner-up finish a season ago. Hanretty knew her team was capable of outperforming its humble ranking.
“I don’t feel like the record really reflected who we are,” Hanretty said. “It’s a whole new season.”
Aviano’s momentum stalled later in the day as it took a 23-25, 25-15, 15-12 loss to sixth-seeded Florence, the 2014 Division III champion and winner of both of its matches in its Division II tournament debut Thursday.
Third-seeded Bitburg, meanwhile, also notched a win over BFA, routing the pool’s beleaguered top seed 25-20, 25-9. Setter Hailey McKenna dished out a combined 31 assists as the Barons beat the Falcons and AFNORTH.
McKenna said Bitburg made productive use of the inevitable anxiety the tournament inspires.
“We’re so nervous,” McKenna said. “We say that if we’re nervous, we love the game.”
Top-seeded defending champion Rota sailed through the other pool, winning its three first-day matches without dropping a game. Janae Curtice had 11 kills and Tayla Irby added eight kills and four aces in the team’s closest win, a 26-24, 25-15 defeat of American Overseas School of Rome.
Division IIIA furious round of first-day pool play left only Alconbury unscathed.
The second-seeded Dragons recorded straight-set victories over No. 1 Sigonella and No. 3 Brussels and routed Ansbach and Baumholder to emerge as the only remaining unbeaten team in Division III.
Fourth seed Incirlik nearly joined them in the ranks of the unbeaten, but the Hodjas dropped a heartbreaker to Ansbach 25-13, 23-25, 16-14 in the last of their three matches on the day. They now face a difficult path to Saturday’s final with tough matches against Brussels and Sigonella looming Friday.
The seven-team Division III bracket is the only one to not feature Friday semifinals; the top two finishers at the conclusion of Friday’s round-robin schedule will advance to Saturday’s title match.