Ramstein wins both titles in U.S. Forces Europe volleyball championships
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Ramstein’s men and women made short work of the first U.S. Forces Europe volleyball tournament championship games Sunday.
Ramstein’s Lady Rams topped Spangdahlem 25-14, 25-11, 25-16 and the Rams downed Kaiserslautern 25-22, 25-17, 25-19.
Ramstein women 3, Spangdahlem 0: According to Ramstein coach Matthew Potts, size made the difference in allowing the Lady Rams to go 19-0 in this inaugural event, which replaced the customary season-ending Army-Europe and USAFE tournaments
“Our bench was almost as good as our starters,” Potts said after his team, which had won the previous 10 USAFE championships, finished with just the loss of a single game in 19 matches. “It’s good to be in a base this size. We had lots more military players than we’ve had in the past.”
The base might have been large, but the season wasn’t, according to tournament all-star Rachel Hammer. There was no regular season for strictly women’s teams this year.
“We played in a tournament in Heidelberg in May,” Hammer said. “The rest was practices and scrimmages against Spangdahlem.”
Judging from their three-day effort here, that was plenty of preparation.
“Our offense was working well,” Hammer said. “We were hitting the ball well.”
Hammer might have understated the case. After losing the first two sets by 11 and 14 points, respectively, Spangdahlem came out fast in Game 3, taking a 7-2 lead. From there on, however, Ramstein went on a 23-9 run to its 19th straight victory.
Ramstein men 3, Kaiserslautern 0: Ramstein’s men, which finished this event 13-2, did pretty well offensively, too. But it was the Rams defense that frustrated Kaiserslautern the most on Sunday.
“Our coach [Lani Kekahuna] stressed defense and passing from Day 1,” said MVP Chris Hucks.
Ramstein prevailed by playing team ball, Hucks added.
“The biggest thing we did was communicate,” he said. “Everyone on this team had his role and everyone contributed.”
Kaiserslautern stayed with the Rams for the first 22 points of Game 1, which was tied at that total for the 16th time before a Hucks kill allowed Ramstein to pull away for good. In the subsequent games, Ramstein fashioned its winning margin early and maintained it the rest of the way home.
That this tournament even got off the ground was a tribute to the volleyball community, USAFE sports director Tom Burkett told the crowd. Budget and participation problems caused by deployments had led many in the military sports community to advocate the elimination of organized volleyball championships. Instead, sports officials from the Army and Air Force fashioned this all-comers event.
“This tournament puts an exclamation point on your effort to get what you wanted — to play,” he told the assembled players, fans and coaches. “Your participation made this possible.”