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Alice Bartek attempts a block against the German air force during the final match of the 3rd Annual Air Component Command Headquaters Ramstein volleyball tournament Wednesday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Alice Bartek attempts a block against the German air force during the final match of the 3rd Annual Air Component Command Headquaters Ramstein volleyball tournament Wednesday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Courtesy of Heidi Holston / U.S. Air Force)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The USAFE women’s volleyball team withstood a surprise power surge from the German air force team Wednesday afternoon to claim the championship in the Air Component Command Headquarters Ramstein six-nation volleyball tournament.

The victory, 27-25, 25-17, 25-19, was USAFE’s second of the day over the Luftwaffe women.

But it was nothing like the pool-play finale, won by the U.S. 25-13, 25-14 in the morning.

“They played us differently this morning,” said Molly Stowers of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., who had six kills, including the match-winner, in the final game.

“That No. 13 [Sandra Piasecki] played setter this morning. She didn’t show any of her power.”

Piasecki showed plenty of juice in the afternoon, launching a high-velocity jump serve that fueled German runs all afternoon and uncorking blistering spikes whenever she got to the net.

“Molly and I were laughing back there waiting to receive it,” Alice Bartek of Aviano Air Base in Italy said of the Piasecki service rocket.

“When someone looks right at you and says, ‘Here it comes,’ all you can do is laugh.”

And dig in.

“Molly took more of them than I did, but once you show that even her best isn’t good enough to beat you, you’re all right,” continued Bartek, who posted a kill and a block that helped the U.S. expand a 20-18 lead to 22-18 in the finale.

The U.S. won five matches in this three-day event without losing a game, but the Germans came close in the first game of the title match.

With her team trailing 22-17, Piasecki served four straight points to cut the gap to 22-21. A Stowers kill moments later had the Americans poised at 24-21, but three U.S. errors and a Piasecki kill put the Germans up 25-24. It took a German error, an ace by Hally Homan and a Stowers kill to put the game away.

“Against a good team, sometimes, you have to step back and regroup,” explained Bartek, who plays on an Italian club team in Aviano when she’s not representing the Air Force. “They forced us to bring out our best.”

Despite their lopsided run through the five-team event, Stowers said her team, which came together for just 12 days for this event, benefited from the experience.

“It’s fun to come overseas and play,” she said. “It’s fun to play against teams that make you better.”

The Netherlands beat Belgium 2 games to 0 to finish third.

U.S. men 2, U.K. 0The U.S. men were relegated to Wednesday’s fifth-place match against the Royal Air Force, coming away with a 25-17, 25-20 victory.

The victory was USAFE’s second of the day and second of the tournament. Both came against winless RAF, which dropped its final pool-play match to the U.S. 25-17, 25-13 in the morning.

“It helps to play the same team back to back,” said Tom Klemas of Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. “You know who’s hot and what kind of offense they’re running.”

With the U.S. down 11-9 in the deciding game, Klemas, who posted four kills, a dink and an ace in the final game, served six straight points to put the Americans ahead to stay at 15-11.

The U.S. lost its first four matches here, all by 2-1 scores.

“We had trouble closing,” Klemas said. “We’d get ahead but couldn’t hold it.”

Poland beat Germany 3-1 to win the men’s title. Netherlands beat Belgium 2-0 to take third.

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