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Ramstein’s Gloria Banks makes a dig Friday at Ramstein as her teammate Tracy King (10) and Spangdahlem’s Stacy Schill (6) and Amy Hueling (7) follow the ball during the women’s championship match of the 2007 USAFE women's volleyball tournament.

Ramstein’s Gloria Banks makes a dig Friday at Ramstein as her teammate Tracy King (10) and Spangdahlem’s Stacy Schill (6) and Amy Hueling (7) follow the ball during the women’s championship match of the 2007 USAFE women's volleyball tournament. (Rusty Bryan / S&S)

European edition, Sunday, May 27, 2007

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — It was seven of one — seven-straight titles for the Ramstein men — and a half-dozen for the other — six straight for the women — when the USAFE volleyball tournament ended Friday.

But the paths the Rams and Lady Rams took to their crowns were hardly the same.

The men swept unbeaten through their pool play and single-elimination matches in the five-day, 59-game USAFE volleyball championships. The women, on the other hand, had to play an “if-necessary” match against gritty Spangdahlem before they took their trophy home from Ramstein’s steamy gym.

Ramstein men 3, 501st Combat Support Wing 1: The Rams’ title came with no ifs, as they downed the 501st Griffins, an amalgamation of RAFs Alconbury, Croughton, Fairford and Menwith Hill in England, winning 18-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-14 in the final.

“We started out with passing problems,” said Ramstein’s John Page, who also played on last year’s USAFE champions. “We had just watched our ladies fall and were a little bit flat.”

It didn’t help the Rams’ focus that they had swept the 501st 25-19, 25-11 on Thursday.

“That might have been part of it,” Page said of his team’s uninspired start.

Despite three straight subsequent Rams victories, the Griffins made quite an impression on the champs.

“I have to hand it to them,” Page said of the 501st, which had three players make thrice-weekly 320-mile round trips to practice. “They ... don’t get to play together very much. For them to play that well here is a real credit to them. I wish there were something better for them than runner-up.”

Ramstein women 3, Spangdahlem 1: Even though the final match was the first one in the tournament between the two Germany-based squads that failed to go the distance, Spangdahlem did not fall easily.

“We just kept pushing,” said Spangdahlem’s Stacey Schill after her team wiped out a two-games-to-none deficit in Friday’s first championship match for a 14-25, 17-25, 25-16, 27-25, 15-11 victory to force Friday evening’s “if-necessary” showdown.

Ramstein took a 2-0 lead in that one too, winning 25-21 and 25-19.

Why did the Lady Sabers, who dropped two out of three in an earlier tournament match against Ramstein, continue giving the champs two-game leads?

“We were just so tired,” opined Schill, whose team nevertheless fought back, again, to claim Game 3 25-21.

Were the Lady Rams worried about another comeback?

“We tried not to think about it,” said Ramstein’s Gloria Banks. “We just tried to pull the next one out.”

They did, winning 29-27 on consecutive match-ending kills by Tracy King, despite the fatigue induced by playing nine games in the span of seven hours in a spiffy new gym that became the world’s largest sauna during the day.

Said Ramstein setter Lani Kekahuna: “It was a battle of the fittest, mind over matter.”

All-tournament teams

MENBobby Caldwell, Tracy Lintz and Chris James, Ramstein; Mark Spence and Mike Green, 501st; Chris Milby and Freddie Verzo, Lakenheath; Aaron Bloomquist, Spangdahlem; Scott Pauley, Mildenhall; and John Cruz, Aviano.

WOMENTracy King, Lani Kekahuna and Jennifer Penczar, Ramstein; Cheryl Robinson, Heidi Rogers and Stacey Schill, Spangdahlem; Alice Bartek and Emanuela Pollano, Aviano; Megan Johnson, Lakenheath; and Melissa Fepuleai, Mildenhall

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