Sigonella defends title with sweep
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 5, 2016
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The Sigonella Jaguars clinched their second straight European Division III girls’ volleyball title Saturday against an upstart Baumholder team, 25-11, 25-21, 25-16.
Though the Jaguars disposed of the Bucs in straight sets, it was far from a dominant victory by the returning champs, who several times had to claw their way back into the lead, making the final two sets thrilling nail-biters.
The tightly-played second set was especially nerve-wracking, said Sigonella’s Kisiah Chandler, “but my team always pushes through, so I wasn’t worried.”
Such a close match wasn’t expected, either, she said. “When we came into the tournament, we thought we knew who we were going to play,” she said. “Baumholder completely threw us off. We had no idea how good they were. They put up a really great game.”
Chandler, a four-year starter for Sigonella, was named the tournament’s Division III most valuable player for the second consecutive year.
The senior had seven kills, three aces and a dig, all while playing in a position that’s new for her.
About halfway through the season, Sigonella coach Shawn McCarthy moved Chandler from setter – a position she’s played since a freshman - to outside hitter, in a move to generate more team offense.
“It paid dividends in the tournament and that’s tough for kids to do, but she did what the team needed and she succeeded and that was great to see,” McCarthy said.
After a lopsided first set, the Bucs dug in for the second game and tied the score at 20 all after an Eliyah Tillman block at the net. Tillman followed that up with a kill that found the far inside corner of Sigonella’s court to put the Bucs up 21-20. But the Bucs couldn’t build on the momentum. A long volley went in Sigonella’s favor after Baumholder hit the ball out of bounds, and the Bucs hit another return into the net. Several exchanges later, Chandler scored the winning point with a decisive kill.
The third set looked as if it might end in similar close fashion, after Baumholder tied the game at 16 apiece. But then Sigonella setter Isabel Dillon took over and marched the team to victory, serving up nine straight points - including three aces.
“She ran the show there at the end,” McCarthy said.
Also contributing for the Jaguars was senior outside hitter Korley Jones with three kills.
Baumholder, McCarthy said, set up its defense for Jones’ attack and was able to dig out many of her hits. But Sigonella was able to take advantage of the other areas of the court that opened as a result.
“Baumholder did an excellent job digging the ball and keeping it in play,” he said. “But I think we had too much offense in the end.”
Baumholder coach Jill Norris said her team “fought really hard.”
“These girls have come a long way since the beginning of the season,” she said. “They had the chemistry that they needed. They got better every week, and they started believing in themselves. And we got here and they just pushed it as far as they could.”
Tillman had four aces, four kills and three blocks for the Bucs and was one of two Baumholder players named to the Division III All-Tournament team, along with senior Tytianna Martinez.
Sigonella's Hanna Barnes goes for a Baumholder serve as teammates Kisiah Chandler, left, and Jessie Jacobs watch in the Division III final at the DODEA-Europe volleyball championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Sigonella beat the Bucs 25-11, 25-21, 25-16 to take the title.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES