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Aviano High School senior Sam Hillestad, shown practicing his setting, has been playing with Italian teams in preparation for another season of boys volleyball.
Aviano High School senior Sam Hillestad, shown practicing his setting, has been playing with Italian teams in preparation for another season of boys volleyball. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Things are as fluid as ever for boys volleyball, a DODDS-Europe sport contested only in the Mediterranean region. Naples went undefeated last season and won the season-ending tournament at Aviano, but lost its top player, Abram Campbell, to graduation.

Coach Peter Nagafuchi said the Wildcats are looking for a replacement for Campbell who “controlled the floor” for the 2009 champs. Until they find one, the door could be opened for the competition

Runner-up Aviano also graduated a top gun when Sean Outing left the building, but coaches’ son Sam Hillestad returns for the new campaign.

“With a year of playing for two different Italian teams under his belt, he’s looking great,” e-mailed Hillestad’s possibly biased but knowledgeable mother, Pam, coach of Aviano’s girls team. Hillestad’s father, Hans, was the guru of European volleyball at Aviano before accepting an assistant’s position at Mount Olive College in North Carolina.

Naples and Aviano will be challenged this year by a towering squad from Marymount International School of Rome, athletic director Simone Trott predicted last week by telephone.

“We have a full, returning team with four players who are six feet tall or more,” Trott said. “We also have a new boy from London (Ludovico de Carle) who’s 6-4.”

The treetop lineup expects to go out champions.

“They’re all seniors,” Trott said. “They’re determined to make this happen.”

New American Overseas School of Rome coach George Sweeney’s playing it close to the vest this season, stressing a no-stars team concept.

The team concept is a necessity, too, at Sigonella, where just seven players fill out the traveling squad which opens its season Saturday at AOSR.

Two of them, however, are particular assets to the Jaguars’ 2010 chances, coach Ross Brand said in a Wednesday e-mail — setter Jeofrey Lucero and hitter Chris McKissick.

AOSR is one of three opening-day venues on Saturday — the others are Naples and Vicenza — which are the opening steps in the march to this year’s Med tournament scheduled for Nov. 4-6 at Aviano.

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