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The numbers are huge as the 2008 high school volleyball season begins. Particularly in Italy.

"Our league win streak is at 99 games entering play this season," Hans Hillestad of Division II champ Aviano wrote in a Tuesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes. "…This dates back to October 2000 when we lost an ASIL (American Schools in Italy League) semifinal against Naples."

The Saints’ streaks don’t end with victories.

"Aviano has won nine conference championships in a row, dating back to 1999. We have won three of the last four European (D-II) championships," the coach said.

Hillestad saved his biggest number for last.

"…We have a 99 percent rate of academic all-conference achievement (3.0 GPA while playing a varsity sport)," Hillestad wrote, "in my 14 years coaching at Aviano."

Not bad for a team that often is faced with all-day bus rides to Rome, Naples and Sigonella during the season, and travels to Germany every year at tournament time. This season, Hillestad added, there’ll be a lot of new faces on those buses – just one starter returns from last year’s champs.

"We will be good," Hillestad predicted of the team that downed SHAPE 3-0 in last year’s final, "but not the dominating team we were last year."

That’s good news for SHAPE, which will coalesce, sponsor James Nelson wrote in an e-mail, around D-II tourney MVP Ebonee De Vos, an All-Europe first-teamer.

Aviano isn’t the only team opening the 2008 campaign with an impressive streak. Chief among the others is the three-time defending European Division I champion Ramstein Lady Royals, who welcome back All-Europeans Charnel Austin, a setter/hitter, and Karis Wadsack, a senior libero.

Austin and Wadsack are among eight Ramstein players, Lady Royals coach Hia Sebastian wrote in an e-mail, who spent their summers honing their skills at various volleyball camps.

Seeking to unravel Ramstein’s streak will be Heidelberg, under new coach Mike Rubino. Rubino received impressive help for returning 2007 All-European Teri Henderson, a senior outside hitter who posted 54 kills last season, in Ashley Hicks, a 2006 All-Europe first-teamer who transferred just in time to welcome her former team, Vilseck, to the Division I wars.

Lakenheath, under new coach David Hagander, also has a D-I nucleus to be reckoned with in All-Europe returnees Lisa McBride, a senior setter, and Kirsten Bot, a senior outside hitter.

Marymount edged Baumholder in a five-set thriller for the 2007 D-III crown. Sam Alsup takes over from Mike Reilly with the Lady Bucs, and will attempt to even the score behind his three-sport All-Europe daughter, Katrina, and three other senior starters.

Hohenfels should also be in the D-III mix behind returning All-Europe setter Emily Mittag and all-tournament hitter Chelsea Barker.

D-IV champ Rota, leaning again on two-time All-Europe first-team hitter Bethany Walcott, will be favored in the division composed of the system’s smallest schools.

All four divisions will descend on the Kaiserslautern Military Community Oct. 30-Nov. 1 to see whose streaks continue.

Boys’ volleyball in Europe is the exclusive province of the Mediterranean schools, with Black Forest Academy joining them for the Med championship tourney. Milan of D-IV topped Aviano of D-II in 2007 by the minimum two points in the final game of a five-setter. Revenge will be on the Saints’ minds when the 2008 version of the event gets going Oct. 30-Nov.1 at a site to be determined.

Defending champions

Division I—RamsteinDivision II—AvianoDivision III—MarymountDivision IV—RotaMediterranean boys—Milan

Returning All-Europe selections

First team Katrina Alsup, senior setter/hitter, BaumholderCharnel Austin, jr. setter/outside hitter, RamsteinEbonee De Vos, senior middle hitter, SHAPELisa McBride, senior setter, LakenheathBethany Walcott, senior middle blocker, Rota

Second teamLiene Bauska, junior middle hitter, SHAPEKirsten Bot, senior outside hitter, LakenheathTeri Henderson, sr. outside hitter, HeidelbergEmily Mittag, senior defender, HohenfelsKaris Wadsack, senior libero, Ramstein

Saturday’s schedule

Jamborees

At AFNORTH: Baumholder, Bitburg, Brussels, SHAPEAt Frankfurt International School: Heidelberg, MannheimAt Lakenheath: Alconbury, Menwith HillAt Naples: American Overseas School of Rome, Marymount, SigonellaAt Vicenza: Aviano, Milan, FlorenceAt Vilseck: Ansbach, Bamberg, Hohenfels, PatchAt Wiesbaden: Black Forest Academy, Kaiserslautern, Ramstein


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