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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – What a year to be a Bison.

Even if it is the last one.

“When they said it was going to be our school’s final year,” said Mannheim coach Chris Kelly after his Lady Bison moved into Saturday’s European Division II championship volleyball game with a 17-25, 13-25, 25-19, 25-18, 15-9 semifinal victory Friday night over Aviano, “everyone must have thought it meant all our teams had to get into the final.”

Kelly was referring to the fact that his Lady Bison are the school’s second team which is to be playing, practically simultaneously, for a European title Saturday. Putting the school’s fans and students on the horns of a delicious dilemma, the Bison football team will take on Bitburg for the European D-II championship at 2:30 p.m. in Baumholder. The Lady Bison are to face two-time defending champion Black Forest Academy at Ramstein’s Southside gym for the volleyball title at 1 p.m.

In the Cinderella fashion Mannheim’s teams have adopted for their save-the-best-for-last campaign, the Lady Bison earned their title shot by falling into a 2-0 hole from which it took three straight victories to extricate themselves.

“It just made us more confident,” senior Gretchen Crockett said about having to come from behind.

In BFA, Mannheim is to take on another five-set Friday victor. The Lady Falcons upset top-seeded and previously unbeaten Vicenza 26-24, 24-26, 25-21, 22-25, 15-7.

“That was the ‘funnest’ game we’ve played,” said BFA senior Eliza Garrity, who served five straight service points to open the decisive fifth game. “We’ve worked really hard this season.”

There’s more hard work in the offing on Saturday, but among familiar faces.

“Mannheim’s our friends,” Garrity said.

In Division I’s late action, defending champion Ramstein knocked archrival and top-seeded Heidelberg out of Saturday afternoon’s title game with a 25-23, 25-19 victory over the Lady Lions in the final round-robin game for both teams.

Ramstein, already eliminated from both of Saturday’s D-I games – the third-place and championship showdowns – derived some solace by dropping Heidelberg’s record to 5-2, good for a second-place tie with Wiesbaden and SHAPE in the final standings. Wiesbaden earned the title-game berth in a tiebreaker which compared the percentage of sets won among the three tied teams.

According to DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore, Wiesbaden won 60 percent of the sets in question, Heidelberg 50 and SHAPE 40. Wiesbaden is to take on round-robin champ Vilseck (6-1) at 2:30 p.m. at Ramstein Southside gym; Heidelberg and SHAPE will play for third at 10:30 a.m. in the same building.

bryanr@estripes.osd.mil

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