Division II volleyball
In battle of Falcons, AOSR soars to first title
By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 4, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — In a battle between a pair of teams both nicknamed the Falcons, it was the American Overseas School of Rome who came, saw and conquered the opposition from Bahrain, clinching its first-ever DODEA-Europe Division II volleyball championship in the process.
It was a disciplined and well-balanced performance by the Italian school, which had to overcome a narrow loss in the final’s first set before prevailing 24-26, 25-19, 25-20, 25-22.
“It’s pretty much just pure excitement,” said AOSR setter Sophie Barber, who took home tournament MVP honors. “We’ve been building up to this moment, we’ve been training the whole season just to get to this moment.”
In addition to Barber, AOSR got strong performances in the final from blocker Emma Woods – also in the all-tournament team – as well as outside hitters Mailea Huber and Viviane Edwards, who sealed the win with a powerful kill from the back line.
Coach Claudio Olivieri said he realized this team was special when it won crucial regular-season matchups against teams which had traditionally gotten the better of the Falcons.
“When we beat some strong teams like Vicenza or Sigonella – in previous years we always lost – that’s the moment that we understood that this team had something magic,” he said.
Bahrain took the game’s first set narrowly.
“We’ve learned throughout our season that even if we lose in the beginning we have to come back even stronger to play harder, so we just knew we’d have to play stronger,” Barber said about falling behind early.
While AOSR was an unlikely winner, it was also a new experience for Bahrain, in its first-ever Division II final. Separated from other DODEA teams in Europe by thousands of miles, Bahrain had to hone its skills against other teams on their small Persian Gulf island.
“It’s always a shock at first – we always tell ourselves that the teams on the island aren’t as good as the teams we are going to play here,” Bahrain libero Olyvia Johnson said. “We know they’re going to be good, and that we would need to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Johnson said a key to a strong run in this year’s tournament was self-belief.
“We didn’t think of ourselves as less than anyone else, and we didn’t think, ‘Oh, we can never beat this team,’ ” she said.
In her second year, Bahrain coach Theresa Carpenter has led her team to a third-place and now runner-up position, and said she’s impressed by her players.
“They fought, they left it all on the court through these games,” she said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough steam left to finish out the last game, but I’m so proud – this is the furthest that this team has ever gotten, so I feel like they left it all on the court and I’m really proud of them.”