Ansbach’s Brittney Britton spikes the ball for a point against Baumholder during a DODDS high school volleyball match in Baumholder, Germany, on Oct. 4.

Ansbach’s Brittney Britton spikes the ball for a point against Baumholder during a DODDS high school volleyball match in Baumholder, Germany, on Oct. 4. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

Four championships will be on the line Thursday through Saturday in the DODDS-Europe girls high school volleyball championships hosted by the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

European titles for Division I, II and III will go on as scheduled, but this year for the first time, high school athletic officials have created a Division IV for the system’s eight smallest schools: Alconbury, Ankara, Brussels, Incirlik, Iceland, Lajes, Menwith Hill and Milan.

In the past, those teams vied with nine other Division III schools in regional tournaments which produced a six-team European Division III field.

This year, for competitive and financial reasons, the regionals were abandoned in favor of bringing all schools to Germany for the European tournament, according to DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore.

“It’s a pilot program for us,” Seadore said of the all-embracing concept adopted this school year for cross country, volleyball and basketball. “Before, we had been funding travel for all teams to the regionals, then turned around and funded travel to the Europeans.

“Last spring, the athletic council decided it would be feasible to do away with the regionals and bring all teams to Germany for the Europeans instead.”

The new concept met with general approval at last Saturday’s European cross country championships, where Division IV’s Lajes girls won a team trophy they might not have won if pitted against the larger Division III schools.

Seadore expects the concept to work as well this week.

“It’s a great opportunity for the athletes,” Seadore said, “and a chance for us to get all our coaches together at one time.”

The extra division isn’t the only change this season. By eliminating the Mediterranean Regional and bringing all the teams playing in Turkey and Italy to Germany, teams such as Aviano and Naples, whose enrollments approach Division II levels, will play for the Division II instead of the Division III crown.

Aviano coach Hans Hillestad, whose Saints have won the Italy championship for the past five years, said he welcomes the new format.

“It’s really exciting to have all the teams from all divisions in one place,” he said. “It should be very competitive.”

Unbeaten Aviano, which has played in the Division III European title game two of the past three years, earned the top seed this season in Division II on the basis of its victories last month against visiting Vilseck, the Division II regular-season champ, and Division II runner-up Patch. Pool-play in Division II is scheduled to begin Thursday and Friday at 9 a.m. at Miesau, with the championship game set for Vogelweh gym in Kaiserslautern at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Ramstein, unbeaten in Division I play, takes the top seed for the big schools, who’ll play their pool games Thursday and Friday in Sembach, beginning at 8:30 a.m each day. The Division I title game is supposed to get under way at Vogelweh at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Baumholder nailed down the top seed in Division III, which will conduct its pool play at Kaiserslautern High School, Vogelweh and Ramstein’s Southside Gym beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. Division III will determine its champion at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Vogelweh.

Alconbury is the No. 1 seed in Division IV, which is to conduct its pool play at Vogelweh beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday. The championship game will start Saturday’s quadrupleheader at Vogelweh at 11 a.m.

More about the tournament ...

What: DODDS volleyball championship.

When: Thursday through Saturday.

Top seeds: Division I — Ramstein; Division II — Aviano; Division III — Baumholder; Division IV — Alconbury.

Schedule: Play begins at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday at Miesau, Sembach, Kaiserslautern and Vogelweh. The championship games, starting with Division IV, will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Vogelweh.

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