New roster, same result for Sigonella: another title
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 4, 2017
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Sigonella used a balanced attack and long stretches of error-free play to upend Brussels in Division III girls’ volleyball on Saturday and clinch its third consecutive European title, 25-17, 21-25, 25-17, 25-22.
Taking the court in the first game of the Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe volleyball championships at the Vogelweh gym, the Jaguars and Brigands showed early on why they were the last two teams standing in the small schools’ division. They battled through four tight sets of equally-matched play with more momentum shifts than Game 5 of this year’s World Series.
But in the end, the Brigands tripped themselves up, committing too many errors against a young Sigonella team that rarely gifted any points in return. That effort, along with an aggressive offense helped tipped the outcome to the Jaguars.
“Just keep attacking” was the team mindset, said Sigonella senior Kristiana Wyrick, an outside hitter.
That attack-mode melted away soon after last point was scored: Wyrick and junior opposite hitter Jessica Jacobs were in tears seconds after the game ended.
“I’m overwhelmed with happiness,” Jacobs said. “I’m very proud of my team. We stuck together through the whole tournament.”
Jacobs and Wyrick combined for 18 kills in the title game. Freshman Averi Chandler had nearly as many, with 16 kills. The hitters had help from teammate Kylee Fall, who set many of those scoring opportunities up with 22 assists, along with three aces. Chandler, following in her big sister’s footsteps, was named the Division III tournament Most Valuable Player.
“I’m really excited,” she said of getting the chance to play for and win a title, like her sister, Kisiah Chandler, who graduated last year, did. “Being there on the court for that last point was really super cool, especially doing it with my team.”
Sigonella felt the pressure of defending its title against a team it lost to soundly in the regular season. But the Jaguars used that experience to lift their game to a new level, said coach Shawn McCarthy.
“They kind of set a standard for the rest of the season and we just worked ... to try to get up to that level,” he said after Saturday’s match. With only one senior on this year’s squad - compared to eight last year - “we had to develop the hitters and the setters,” McCarthy said. “The final match, you could see that both teams were fairly equally matched.”
Brussels didn’t go down easily. After ceding the first set, the Brigands toughed out a win in the second, notching four straight points after the score was knotted at 21 apiece. The Jaguars seemed to have a momentary lapse in concentration, sending a couple balls into the net and letting a ball that hit the ceiling above their side of the court drop to the floor.
But Brussels couldn’t carry the momentum into the third set, falling behind at one point 22-14.
In the fourth set, the Brigands seemed determined to wrestle back the advantage, jumping up 13-7 and staying ahead even as the Jaguars chipped away at their lead. Sigonella tied it up at 19 all, then the teams exchanged points to tie it up again at 21 all. But a Wyrick spike and subsequent out-of-bounds and net balls by Brussels sealed the deal, giving Sigonella the set and the title.
For Brussels, hopes for a title a year after the Brigands finished third in tourney play will have to wait another year.
“Errors, it was huge,” coach Mari Brown said. “It was the mental errors, more errors in your serving and passing.”
Nerves were also a factor, she said. “They wanted it so bad,” she said of her team, comprised of four seniors. “They played so tight because they wanted it, but they just couldn’t do it.
“Maybe next year,” she said.
Juliette Mobley, a senior setter for the Brigands, said the loss didn’t diminish what was a great season.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “We accomplished a lot of good things, so I regret nothing.”
Mobley had five aces on the day. Also key to the Brussels’ offense was Danielle Lynch, who had 14 kills and six digs, Caitlin McCollom with 12 kills, and Evan Harper, with nine digs.