European H.S. volleyball: Heidelberg, Aviano, Ansbach, Alconbury are champs
November 7, 2004
VOGELWEH, Germany — Alconbury, Ansbach, Aviano and Heidelberg claimed divisional titles in the DODDS-Europe volleyball tournament on Saturday.
Saturday’s games, the culmination of three-day tournaments played in gyms across the Kaiserslautern military community, marked the first time the Department of Defense and international schools were divided into four divisions to give the smallest schools a better chance of winning a title.
Alconbury made the most of its opportunity.
The Dragons, who entered play as the top seed, defeated American School of Milan 25-20, 20-25, 15-22, 25-16. They began celebrating as soon as the final point was scored.
“We worked so hard to get here. Last year we lost when we came here. This is how it’s supposed to be,” said backup setter Aja Brown, as her teammates cheered behind her.
Brown said the entire team started practicing well before the season to help ensure this win.
Coach Lisa Westlake said the team had “a lot of maturity and composure,” both of which were needed after dropping the third set to second-seeded Milan. The Dragons rebounded strongly to make sure this year the title did not slip away.
Crowd-favorite Ansbach knocked off top-seeded Baumholder in a tight match, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23.
Coach Kari M. Dowis said the victory was especially sweet for her four seniors, who had failed to get by in the past.
“This is the first time in a long time that we’ve won the European championship,” said middle hitter Brittney Britton, one of the Cougar seniors.
“We were down sometimes, but we pulled back together and did it.”
Aviano’s win capped off a great season that saw it lose only once — to Black Forest Academy in tournament play.
Aviano defeated Patch 25-18, 25-21, 25-19 before a raucous crowd that cheered throughout the match.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” coach Hans Hillestead said after his Saints finished off third-seeded Patch.
He said that the two seniors on his team worked their entire high school careers to make it to this point.
Ashley Mead, a senior middle blocker, was teary-eyed after the Saints won their first European title of her high school career.
“Winning never felt so good,” she said.
Heidelberg, which entered the tournament as the fourth seed, rolled to victory in its first two games in the Division I final, but had to win a nail-biter to finish off Frankfurt International School 25-16, 25-18, 25-23, and repeat as D-I champion.
The key to Heidelberg’s win was teamwork, outside hitter Natasha Holan said after she and her teammates finished singing a victory chorus of “We Are the Champions” by Queen.
“We had beat them before, but we were still nervous,” Holan said of third-seeded FIS. “They put up a good game.”