By Mike ElterNational Guard Bureau
MILLINGTON, Tenn., Sept. 25, 2002 The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force squared off against each other in the 2002 Armed Forces Men's and Women's Volleyball Championship at Naval Support Activity Mid-South here Sept. 9-14.
The Navy women took the court for the first game of the tournament, beat Air Force and never looked back in posting a perfect match-play record.
The men's contest wasn't as easy and went down to a tie-breaking best-two-of-three match between the Army and Air Force. Both came to the final game with one loss -- at the hands of one another. Having just battled Navy an hour before, the Army fell in two games to the Air Force.
At the closing ceremony, after the Navy women and Air Force men received their gold medals, and the Army men and women their silvers, it was time to announce the tournament all-star team and the all-armed forces team.
The Navy women again rose to the top, placing their head coach, Lt. Katie Good, and five players on the 12-person all-armed forces team.
The women on the armed forces team will be: Navy, Lt. Marsha Heineman, Seaman Faye Solis, Lt. j.g. Katie Sheldon, Petty Officer 3rd class Edna McCollum and Lt. j.g. Beth Salness; Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Charissa Howard; Army, 1st Lt. Cassandra Clemons, 1st Lt. Jennifer Cave and 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Andreichuk; and Air Force, 1st Lt. Summer Deaton, Capt. Billeye Juarez and Senior Airman Heather Liskey.
The men's all-armed forces team will be: Navy, Ensign Jeffrey Mund, Petty Officer 3rd class Randall Mindar and Lt. Brian Rosemark; Army, Sgt. Jason Janda, Sgt. Juan Monge-Velazquez, Capt. Leif Fautanu and Staff Sgt. Tausala Faamausili; and Air Force, Staff Sgt. Robert Caldwell, Staff Sgt. Brian Quinn and Airman First Class Ashley Spurlin. The Marines will be represented on court by Navy hospital corpsmen Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Taylor and Seaman Russel Simmons. The men's team will be led by Marine Corps team coach Petty Officer 1st class Kahili Schucht.
Heineman, Solis, Sheldon, Clemons, Deaton, Juarez and Marine Corps Capt. Susan Bird composed the tournament all-star women's squad. On the men's all stars were Mindar, Simmons, Spurlin, Quinn, Faamausili, Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Duenasnunez and Air Force Master Sgt. Kliengsak Nipchaimanathan.
The tournament displayed teamwork at its best. The skill levels of the players being similar, the difference between who won or lost came down to who came ready to win.
Navy women's coach Good knows the answer: The Navy women.
"The attitude of this team is the best I have ever worked with, but they are also the most talented," Good said. "They came in on Day 1 with one goal of winning the gold. They came to play volleyball and clicked right away. If there were any little personality problems, they dealt with them and didn't bring them to the gym."
She also attributes the team's success to leadership, but she doesn't take credit for it.
"Each one of them is her own individual leader. They were all able to take control of anything that happened out there, and the others instinctively supported them," Good added.
"We just wanted to be the best. Winning the gold is a bonus," said Petty Officer 2nd class Kilohana Akim, based in Hawaii at the Pacific Area Armory Detachment.
"They have become a family," said Rob Hansgen, deputy secretariat of the Armed Forces Sports Council. "First, when they were formed as a team, and now all the services here have become a family. That's part of the goal of the program for all of the sports."
"We're dealing with some of the best athletes in the nation," Hansgen said "This program is on the same level as (NCAA) Division 1. Some of these players are even Olympic caliber."
In addition to volleyball the Department of Defense sponsors sports programs in golf, basketball, wrestling, bowling, track and field, racquetball, tennis, softball, boxing and soccer.
Service members interested in representing their branch of service should contact their athletics or recreation department for more details and schedules, or log on to the DoD sports Web site at dod.mil/armedforcessports.
"The combat sports -- wrestling and boxing -- are the most popular," Hansgen said, "but all of the programs are highly competitive."
The all-armed forces team, also known as "Team U.S.A.," will now represent the United States in the Conseil International du Sports Militaire, known as CISM, championship being held now through Oct. 2 in Constanta, Romania. CISM has 122 member nations.
The host, Capt. Wanda L. Riddle, commander of the support activity, could often be seen cheering on the teams when her schedule allowed. She favored the Navy teams, of course, but she voiced pride in all the teams.
"Sports endeavors such as this tournament play a vital role in our military," Riddle said. "They provide higher morale and alert minds. Each of the participants here has exhibited dedication, hard work and a willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to be champions.
"It's great you can all come here and do something different and still represent the U.S. military. I am very proud of all of you and I am glad you are all on the same military team," she said closing the tournament.
(Mike Elter is a public affairs specialist at the Naval Support Activity Mid-South, Millington, Tenn.)
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