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Air Force Captures Armed Forces Soccer Championship

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 1996 – John Liller's early second half goal proved the tournament winner as Air Force defeated Navy 21 in the final game of the 1996 armed forces soccer championship.

With the win, Air Force reclaimed the armed forces soccer title, compiling a 402 record at the sixday tournament held Nov. 28 at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, Va. Defending champion Army (312) finished second, followed by Marine Corps (132) and Navy (150).

Liller, a first lieutenant stationed at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., slammed a 14yard kick from the left side past Navy goalkeeper Ensign Thomas Grady (U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.) 2:45 into the second half. That goal, combined with a late firsthalf tally by 2nd Lt. Shayne Keifer (U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.), gave Air Force a 20 lead.

Navy managed to closed the gap 10 minutes later as Lt. Louis Schager (Oceana Naval Air Station, Va.) took a pass from Oceana teammate Lt. Cmdr. Rob Trafton and scored, cutting the lead in half. However, Navy a team that scored only three goals in six games could not get any closer as Air Force went on to victory.

Air Force entered the final contest needing only a tie to claim the 1996 title. Army, which still had an outside chance to repeat as champs, had to rally from a goal down to tie Marine Corps 22 earlier in the day.

Pfc. Roderick Mentus (Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, N.C.) gave the Marines a 10 lead when he outran Army defenders and slipped a shot past 2nd Lt. Lucas Rice (Fort Campbell, Ky.) It was his second goal of the tournament.

Army tied the game 18 minutes into the second half when Spc. Kevin James (Fort Eustis, Va.) blasted a shot past Marine netminder Cpl. John Deaderick (Miramar Naval Air Station, Calif.).

However, the Marines regained the lead eight minutes later when Sgt. Kevin Pierre (Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Ariz.) banked a shot off the right goal post into the net. Army salvaged the tie when Spc. Sean Kelly (Fort Lewis, Wash.) netted a goal from 10 yards away with 10 minutes left.

The tie was just as good as a loss for Army. Army needed a win and a Navy victory over Air Force in the final game to win the title. Even with a tie and a Navy win, Air Force had a 101 record against Army in headtohead competition the first tiebreaker in tournament competition.

The tournament's pivotal game may have been Nov. 6, when Army and Air Force collided for their second match. A 30 loser to Air Force in their first contest, an Army win in the rematch would have tied both teams at 211 in the tournament standings.

Battling to a scoreless firsthalf tie, Army took a 10 lead early in the second half. Midfielder 2nd Lt. Stephen Merchant (Fort Rucker, Ala.) slammed a shot past Senior Airman Royal Jones (Kadena Air Base, Japan) to give Army the first score.

Air Force briefly tied the score at 11 when Liller took a rebound off the Army goal post and fired the ball past Army Sgt. John King (Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.). Yet, Army countered minutes later when 1st Lt. Robert Fresh (Fort Campbell, Ky.) took a pass from James and fired into a 21 lead.

However, Army's hopes for a win died in the final three minutes of the contest. Forward 1st Lt. Peter Adolphus (Ramstein Air Base, Germany) powered the gametying shot past King giving Air Force their second tie of the tournament. It also kept Air Force one point ahead of Army with two games remaining.

Air Force placed nine members on the armed forces all tournament team. Earning Air Force slots were Jones, Kiefer, Liller, 2nd Lt. Travis Pacheco (U.S. Air Force Academy) and 1st Lt. Chris Cullen (U.S. Air Force Academy).

Other Air Force members earning spots were Capt. Glenn Melia (DavisMonthan Air Force Base, Ariz.), 2nd Lt. Robert Behm (Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.), 2nd Lt. Mathes Mennel (U.S. Air Force Academy) and Staff Sgt. William McGregor (Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.).

Army players earned five spots on the team. Grabbing slots were Fresh, 2nd Lt. Christopher Dodd (Fort Rucker), 2nd Lt. Reid Brewer (Vicenza, Italy), 1st Lt. Jay Robinson (Fort Hood, Texas) and Staff Sgt. Sean Stroud (Wuerzburg, Germany).

Pierre led four Marines to alltournament honors. Joining him were Cpl. Mario Morales (New River Marine Corps Air Station, N.C.), Lance Cpl. Fred Lopez (Camp Lejeune, N.C.) and Sgt. Gregory Chewett (Camp Pendleton, Calif.).

Grady and Schager were two of the four Navy players selected. Also earning spots were Petty Officers 3rd Class Randall Zacher (USS Kitty Hawk) and Todd Whitehead (Bethesda Naval Medical Center, Md.).

Final Tournament Standings

           W   L   T  PCT.  PTS* GS  GA

Air Force       4   0   2  .833  10   14   4

Army            3   1   2  .667   8   10   7

Marine Corps    1   3   2  .333   4    5  13

Navy            1   5   0  .167   2    3   8

* Two points awarded for a win, one point for a tie

Top Goal Scorers            Installation                   Goals

2nd Lt. Robert Behm (AF)    Luke AFB, Ariz.                  3

1st Lt. Robert Fresh (A)    Fort Campbell, Ky.               3

Capt. Glenn Melia (AF)      Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.         2

2nd Lt. Edgar Dominguez(AF) USAF Academy, Colo.              2

1st John Liller (AF)        McClellan AFB, Calif.            2

Pfc. Roderick Mentus (MC)   Cherry Point MCAS, NC            2

Results

First Round

Navy 2, Marine Corps 1

Air Force 3, Army 0

Army 1, Navy 0

Air Force 1, Marine Corps 1

Army 3, Marine Corps 0

Air Force 1, Navy 0

Second Round

Air Force 2, Army 2

Marine Corps 1, Navy 0

Air Force 5, Marine Corps 0

Army 2, Navy 0

Air Force 2, Navy 1

Marine Corps 2, Army 2

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