HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Kitzingen Rattlers knocked the two-time defending Army Europe volleyball champion Stuttgart Stallions out of this year’s tournament with a 25-23, 25-22 victory in the semifinals Saturday at the Patton Barracks gym.

“This is something that’s been in the making for three years,” said Kitzingen’s Kai Cox, who hammered the final nail into Stuttgart’s coffin with a thunderous kill that ended the second game. “We’ve played them six times this year, and this is the first time we’ve beaten them.”

Stuttgart started slowly in both games, spotting Kitzingen 4-0 and 4-1 leads mostly on unforced errors.

“That’s been our history all year,” Stuttgart’s Rich Dinio said. “We usually overcome it, but today they played better.”

Kitzingen’s big hitters — Cox and Chad Cole — put away three of their combined seven kills late in the second game.

Kitzingen’s fourth seed in the tournament was due more to duty commitments than to its performance. The Rattlers were forced to forfeit both of their games on Thursday because their players had to work, ensuring that the top seed would have a tough team to face in the semifinals.

“We finally got our team together today,” Cox said.

Kitzingen will take on Vicenza in Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. championship game. The Italy-based team bounced Grafenwöhr-Vilseck 25-19, 19-25, 15-9 behind the dinks of Junior Vee and the hitting of Paul Samoa to earn its berth in the finals.

In the women’s tournament, defending Army-Europe and U.S. Forces champion Heidelberg continued its straight-sets run through the tournament with a 25-20, 25-19 defeat of Vicenza. It was Heidelberg’s fifth match in the event without losing a game.

Still, the defending champs were blasé about Saturday’s feat.

“We didn’t really play that well,” Heidelberg coach Len Palaschak said. “We’ll do better tomorrow.”

Heidelberg’s Stacy Gervelis, a new addition to the team, posted three kills in each game to lead the Lady Generals’ dominant power game.

“We have a powerful front row,” she said of the unit, which includes Tiffany Collins, who has led Heidelberg to U.S. Forces-Europe basketball crowns the past two seasons.

Collins chalked up five kills, even though the Heidelberg softball team, which was playing outside the gym Saturday, was begging for her services on the diamond.

For Collins, volleyball is the only game in town this weekend.

“This is for the USAREUR championship,” she said, “and it’s in our house.”

Heidelberg will take on Ansbach’s Lady Cougars in Sunday’s 1 p.m. final. Like the Kitzingen men, Ansbach put an end to a season-long string of losses to a regional foe when it defeated Bamberg’s Lady Barons 24-26, 25-19, 15-13 in Saturday’s first semifinal.

“Our games were always close,” Ansbach’s Barbara Lafasciano said, “but they always came back and beat us.”

They didn’t on Saturday, largely because Lafasciano revved it up with four kills and a crucial dig in the third game. She added a kill and five service points in the second game, all of which helped offset a monster performance by Bamberg’s Debra McNamara — 10 kills on the day.

“We finally learned how to finish,” Lafasciano said.

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