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Army Regroups After First Day of Competition

By Army Master Sgt. Doug Sample
Army News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 12, 2010 – You win some, you lose some.

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Army Sgt. Robert Price tries to block the ball during a volleyball match on the first day of competition at the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2010. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III
  

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That statement sums up the Army’s scorecard after the first day of competition at the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here.

Yesterday’s games featured preliminary rounds in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball, where the Army finished the night with one win and four losses, including a total blowout by the Marine Corps on the hardwood.

In volleyball, the Army teams put of a good fight, but came up short on both sides on the gym. On the near court, the Marine Corps team led by as many as 10 points over Army before winning 25-11, thanks to retired Lance Cpl. Travis Green’s eight aces, followed by Pfc. Jessie Schag, who added three aces and two kills. At one point, the Marines ran off 18 unanswered points.

But the second matchup between the two services told a different story. After a solid defeat by the Marines, the Army team wanted vindication, coming out strong for a 6-0 lead before the Marines rallied back to tie. The two teams had exchanged the lead three times when Army’s Sgt. Jonathan Moreno, serving with a 25-24 lead, had a chance to steal the win.

With the crowd chanting “Army, Army,” on one side, and “Go Marines” on the other, Moreno lost his focus and his serve on a net ball. From there, the Marines marched on to victory.

“We had them, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Moreno said. “We’ll get them next time. This is not just about the Army or the Marines. It’s about wounded warriors. We all won today. That’s the important thing today.”

Despite the close defeat, Army assistant coach Roderick White said his team will bounce back in the tournament.

“We had enthusiasm and spirit, we played together as a team, and we will be OK,” he said. “The most important thing is that the warriors got a chance to get out here, have a good time and play team ball.”

While congratulating his opponents, Army Sgt. David Marklain of the Fort Jackson warrior transition unit had only praise for the Marines.

“I know we tried our very best, but the Marines’ best was better,” he said. “And I’m proud of them. I know we are here to beat them, but when I look at my brothers in arms, I have to give my hand to them.”

The defeat by the Marines wasn’t the only disappointment on the night. Army volleyball teams lost straight matches to the Air Force, 27-25 and 25-16, making them 0-3 against the services.

Meanwhile, in the first wheelchair basketball contest of the Warrior Games last night, Army edged Navy 15-10, to tally its first win of the four-day competition.

In a game that highlighted lots of defense and little offense, Staff Sgt. Curtis Winton, Spc. Chris Smith and Spc. Rashawn McDowell, each scored four points to lead Army in the win, while Petty Officer 3rd Class Mike Johnson netted four points for Navy.

Army coach Alonzo Lunsford said the win set the tone for the rest of the tournament.

“Regardless of Air Force, Navy or Marines,” Lunsford said, “we’ve got the spirit, and we’re out to win this thing; we’re going to make it happen.”

However, Lunsford said, he now realizes his team will have to beat the Marines, and after last night’s matchup, he knows that won’t be easy.

The Marines cut short the Army celebration with a 45-19 blowout in the second game, a win much like the 68-15 drubbing they handed Air Force in their earlier matchup.

In both contests the Marines’ Schaq and the team’s “big man,” Lance Cpl. Justin Martin, appeared unstoppable. Against Army, Schaq led all scorers with 15 points, mostly off the fast break and outside set shots, while Martin poured in 12 points, mostly from underneath the basket and offensive rebounds.

Spc. Chris Smith, the Army’s leading scorer, had nine points. He left the game in the second half with severe muscle spasms.

“We just did play the game like we were taught,” Schaq said afterward, wheeling his way over to congratulate his Army buddies, many of whom are in rehab with him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Lunsford is hopeful for a different outcome when the two teams meet again later this week.

“It’s going to be a different day,” the Army coach said, mulling over his next game plan. “We’ll have to wait and see what the outcome will be.”

 

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Warrior Games
Warrior Games on Facebook

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Sgt. 1st Class Jacque Keeslar participates in wheelchair basketball on the first day of competition at the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2010. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III  
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