Ramstein, SHAPE, Bitburg advance to volleyball finals
MANNHEIM, Germany — Ramstein, SHAPE and Bitburg moved into two of Saturday’s three high school volleyball championship games at the Benjamin Franklin Village Sports Arena with multiple victories on Friday.
Ramstein, the second seed in Division I, knocked off top-seeded Würzburg 23-25, 25-21, 15-7 to clinch a berth in the Division I finale, and SHAPE and Bitburg moved into the Division II showdown though each suffered its first loss of this three-day tournament on Friday.
In the Division III tournament which began Friday, unbeaten London Central took a step toward the title game with impressive victories over previously unbeaten Aviano, the Mediterranean Regional champion, and three regioinal runners-up, Alconbury, Naples and Hohenfels.
If the Royals become Division I champs, they’ll owe it all to ferocious tenacity and a play they call No.1.
The Royals spotted top-seeded Würzburg one game Friday, then rallied past the Wolves, largely on the strength of a devastating low set by Jenn Morton and hard spikes by Ramstein hitters Andra Vanderneck, April Brown and Tatrika Polite.
“We call that play No. 1,” said the 6-0 Vanderneck, an All-Europe soccer goalie when she’s not dominating the volleyball nets. All told, the play produced 11 instant points on slams and dunks and numerous others when the Würzburg defenders were scrambling to control the heat from the other side of the net.
“We’re the only team that runs that play, said Ramstein coach Shannon Brown. “This is the only setter and these are the only hitters in Europe who can work that play.”
Brown was impressed by more than the athleticism of her No. 1s. She liked the “mental toughness” her team displayed in coming back from an early 13-4 deficit in game one to get as close as 23-24, and then in prevailing in a second game which saw the lead change four times after the score was tied at 15.
Much of that toughness was applied by Brown, whose ability to dig and keep the ball alive frustrated the Würzburg power game. It also showed up in Ramstein's strong service game.
“I’ve been playing this game for 17 years,” Brown said. “The mental aspect is the most important part of the game.”
The victory over Würzburg improved Ramstein’s record to 5-0 going into Friday’s late game against Frankfurt International School. Even if FIS pulled the upset, Ramstein was assured of a spot in the final by virtue of its victory over Wiesbaden, the only other team with the potential to finish with one loss. The Warriors, who stunned Würzburg 25-12, 16-25, 17-15 in Friday’s opener, were taking a 4-1 record into their late game against 3-2 Heidelberg. Also in the hunt at press time Friday night to play the Royals again in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. finale were Würzburg and FIS.
Top-seeded Bitburg lost its first match of the season, 21-25, 21-25 to a rejuvenated Hanau squad, but rebounded to hand SHAPE its first defeat of the round robin by the same score.
SHAPE completed the round-robin with a 6-1 mark; Bitburg was 5-1 going into its finale against Vilseck, and no other Division III team had fewer than three losses. They’ll faqce off at 1 p.m.
Previously unbeaten Med champion Aviano saw a sharp display of teamwork and prowess by London Central. The Bobcats won the marquee matchup of the division 25-15, 25-16.
“They didn’t play their best game,” said London Central’s Susan Payne, whose Bobcats were led by Nicki Lassetter and talented newcomer Mary Beth Tittle. “We hope we see them again tomorrow.”
Lasssetter was her usual dominant force at the net and in back-row defense and serving, and Tittle was brutally efficient on her serve.
“I just kept hitting it to where they were having trouble,” she said.