By Scott Prater
When Steve Bragado stepped to the service line, 22nd Space Operations Squadron led 6-4.
The match, still in its infancy, moved along rather smoothly, neither 22 SOPS nor 50th Civil Engineering Squadron showing any inkling of a breathtaking run.
Then Bragado cocked and delivered. His serve zinged over the net, handcuffing a couple of would-be receivers. 7-4.
When he was done, 22 SOPS led 18-4. And those 12 straight points led 22 SOPS to an easy win in the first game of a 25-7, 25-21 intramural volleyball victory March 2.
“They couldn’t handle the serve,” said 22 SOPS hitter Craig Armogida of his 50 CES opponents. “Once that gap is there it takes the athleticism right out of a team.”
Minus its captain and another key player, 50 CES fell to 1-2, but only after putting up a stiff defensive effort in the second game.
“They are an extremely physical team,” 22 SOPS setter Clay Pinyerd said. “They’re young and strong and fast, and it seemed like they got an arm on everything we sent at them.”
Joe Zupke filled in for 50 CES at setter in place of team captain Patrick Tasca, who was unable to play, and performed admirably at the task, according to Tasca, as did Jeff Brown, Justin Jones and Chue Her.
“We played some good defense,” Tasca said. “But, I think we need to work on coverage behind the blocks. We were allowing their big hitters to hit away on us, and that’s fine as long as you have people on the back row to dig them up.”
The problem for 50 CES March 2 was that 22 SOPS runs a smooth, deceptive and effective offensive scheme, and its players are more than well-versed in its intricacies.
“Steve, John Baldwin and I play on an over-50 team together, and we’ve played together since probably 1984,” Pinyerd said. “We all know what the other is thinking on the court and we all know where to go with the ball.”
Armogida, and 22 SOPS’ other big hitter, Korey Kuykendall, also know what Pinyerd is thinking. That pair of hitters bombarded 50 CES defenders continually for the length of the match and are one of the primary reasons this 22 SOPS team has gone deep into the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, earning a championship title two seasons back.
“I think its just experience,” Armogida said. “I know what he (Pinyerd) is thinking and I know where he’s going. And normally we have John Baldwin, and he runs a middle better than anybody I know.”
It remains to be seen how far 22 SOPS can go this season, but for now the team is 2-0.
50 CES suffered its second loss in three games, but Tasca believes the team will improve as the season moves along and become a playoff team again once the post season rolls around.
“We’ve been practicing, working on skills, offense and defense and I think we’re stronger than we were last year,” Tasca said. “We’ll be aggressive at the net and play tough defense and hopefully reach the playoffs again.”