If you’re trying to pick the winners of the three-day DODDS-Europe girls volleyball championships that begin Thursday, there’s plenty of reason to go with the top seeds.

For example, Ramstein’s Lady Royals, the two-time defending Division I champions who are seeded No. 1 again, haven’t lost a match in two seasons.

In Division II, Aviano’s Saints have won 99 straight American Schools Italy League matches and were D-II champs in 2005.

Baumholder tops Division III, while declining enrollment has dropped reigning D-III champ Rota right on top of Division IV.

Then, again, there are reasons not to go with the No. 1s.

“In a tournament, anything can happen,” Aviano coach Hans Hillestad said Tuesday by telephone.

“Last year, we played well, but Vilseck got hot and knocked us out.”

And even though Vilseck, which lost half of its starters from last season, is only seeded No. 8 this time, a taste of winning goes a long way.

“It’ll be tough, but we have the potential,” first-year coach Luis Sanchez said Tuesday by phone.

Which brings up a point made by Rota coach Judy Scarbrough. In addition to guarding against a hot opponent, a team has to take care of its own business.

“We think we can do well if we play our game,” she said Tuesday by phone. “We have to be consistent serving and returning serve.”

For the rest of the D-IV field, including defending champ Brussels, seeded fourth this season, Scarbrough had some bad news.

“We have an overall better team than last year,” she said. “We got in a good setter (junior Jesse Armel) over the summer. We already had a good setter (senior Kayleigh Cradeur), so now we have two. And (All-European) Bethany Walcott is playing better than ever.”

But that doesn’t mean the other D-IV teams will go down without a fight.

Play begins at 9 a.m. Thursday at four venues in the Ramstein-Kaiserslautern area. On Day 1, Divisions I and III go at it on two courts at Vogelweh, Division IV occupies two courts at Kaiserslautern High School and the 10 teams of Division II test open at Ramstein’s Southside annex.

Friday, play again begins at 9 a.m. at Ramstein Southside, Kaiserslautern high school and Vogelweh, while Saturday’s title games are at Ramstein Southside.

D-IV gets things started at 10 a.m., followed every 90 minutes by Divisions III, II and I.

Pool games are best-of-three sets; semifinals and finals revert to the normal best-of-five format.

DODDS-Europe seeds

Division I: Ramstein, Lakenheath, Kaiserslautern, Heidelberg, Frankfurt International School;

Division II: Pool A — Aviano, Bitburg, Mannheim, Vilseck, Ansbach; Pool B — SHAPE, Black Forest Academy, Wiesbaden, Naples, Patch;

Division III: Baumholder, Hohenfels, Marymount International, Bamberg, Vilseck, Würzburg, American Overseas School of Rome; Milan, AFNORTH;

Division IV: Rota, Sigonella, Hanau, Brussels, Incirlik, Lajes, Ankara, Alconbury, Menwith Hill.

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