By Scott Prater
Sometimes, when teams and individual players commit to intramural sports, they must suffer through the occasional hardship.
Such a scenario played out May 4 at the fitness center, when 4th Space Operations Squadron players took the court for their volleyball match against arguably the best team in the intramural league here.
Facing a 22nd SOPS squad that had remained unbeaten through its first six games, 4th SOPS suited up with just four players, and despite being outmanned and outgunned, racked up 18 points during a two-set loss.
“Yeah, we could have forfeited, but what’s the fun in that,” said 4th SOPS player Alex Carow. “We wanted to make them (22nd SOPS) work. Our game plan was simple: try and cover everything — and be everywhere at once.”
It was a valiant effort from a 4th SOPS team that competed despite missing its captain and three more of its top players. Thanks to meetings, the various duty schedules and other conflicts, six regular 4th SOPS players were unable to make it to the gym in time to play.
Ten points into the match, Ashley Dalton’s forearms were already bright red from digging up some of the heavy swats the 22nd SOPS hitters delivered.
Between games, 4th SOPS players gathered, assessed the damage and finished their pep talk with a “1-2-3…4th SOPS” shout out.
“We were looking forward to playing a competitive match,” said 22nd SOPS hitter Korey Kuykendall. “They’ve got some good players who weren’t here today. So, it was a bit of a disappointment to not see them walk into the gym. Even so, we’ve got to hand it to the 4th SOPS players who did play, because they never quit.”
“I was impressed,” said 22nd SOPS co-captain John Baldwin. “They were in position to defend us on a lot of points and played a determined game the whole way through.”
Latoya Loften, Lavon Coles, Carow and Dalton dove after balls, served their way through a few streaks and kept themselves in points through sheer grit and determination.
“It was fun to be able to take an hour or so away from our workday and be able to come out here and get a fun workout in,” said Dalton, who hit two winners and served for a couple more points. “We had a good time today.”
For 22nd SOPS, the match provided an opportunity to get solid practice in and allowed it some time to work through some set plays at full-game speed.
Clay Pinyerd, the team’s primary setter, got a chance to play outside hitter, while some of his teammates practiced setting.
The setback didn’t faze 4th SOPS. The team has kept its sights set on earning a playoff bid and, with a 3-4 record, remains in the middle of the pack in league standings.
“We’re hungry for a playoff spot and really we haven’t had too much participation trouble all season, except for today,” Dalton said. “Other things just happen to take priority.”
With the victory, 22nd SOPS (7-0) maintained its perch atop the Schriever intramural volleyball league standings and has four games left in the regular season. The volleyball post-season tournament begins May 24.