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VICENZA, Italy — Solid serving and a double dose of Ashley — or Ashlee — power spelled success for Aviano.

The Saints’ girls volleyball team won its third straight DODDS-Europe Mediterranean volleyball title Saturday and ran its unbeaten streak in Italy to 56 matches.

Aviano swept Naples in the finals 25-12, 30-28, 25-16.

The only difference for Aviano compared to the two previous years was that the games went to 25 instead of 15, part of the new rules that Department of Defense Dependents Schools are playing under. Aside from the higher threshhold, the biggest change is a scoring system in which teams don’t have to serve to earn the point.

“The thing I like about it is that there are responses for every action,” said Naples coach Jenn Falls. “If you make a mistake, it’s a point, not just a side out.”

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they were the ones making most of the mistakes Saturday.

At least part of that can be attributed to the Saints’ serving.

Getting serves in play is more important than ever this year, because those into the net or outside the court add to the opponents’ total.

The Saints got all but a handful of their serves in, and many had the Wildcats sending back weak returns. That was trouble, because 5-foot, 10-inch spikers Ashley Meed and Ashlee Purpura jumped all over them.

Meed, named the tournament’s most valuable player, and Purpura, one of four Saints on the all-tournament team, each had nine kills in the victory. And they spaced them out at critical points.

Purpura had three kills and a block in the first game as Aviano took a 9-1 advantage and was never threatened. She had six kills and a point-scoring block in the second game, and the Saints needed every one of them.

“That was the only game where we played our game,” said Falls, whose team’s only two regular-season losses were to Aviano and Marymount.

Naples took its first lead at 21-20 when a Purpura spike went long. But Purpura came back with two consecutive spikes give Aviano the lead before a Naples mishit clinched the match.

Meed had five kills in the final match as the Saints never trailed.

Bree Mariz and Erin Hassan were also selected to the all-tournament squad for Aviano, as were Wildcats Renna Damon and Denise Hill.

Both teams travel to Germany next weekend for the Division III European championships.

The Saints haven’t fared as well on German soil in recent years as they have in Italy.

“I hope this is the year,” said Aviano coach Hans Hillestad. “It’s hard to say, but I think we have a chance.”

AOSR boys win Med crown

There was no doubt who the top player in the gym was. And maybe the top player on base or in the city, for that matter.

Seyi Smith, a Canadian citizen attending the American Overseas School of Rome, dominated play at the net, leading his team to a 25-18, 24-26, 25-16, 25-22 victory over Milan.

The junior had 38 kills and four point-scoring blocks.

And according to coach Andrea Desideri, volleyball isn’t his sport — he also excels at sprinting and the long jump. But DODDS track and field athletes might get a break, because, Smith’s coach says, he’s unlikely to compete against other high schools in the spring, going the amateur club route instead.

Aviano defeated top-seeded Naples — upset by Milan in the semifinals — 25-29, 25-19 in the consolation game.

Migrated
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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