By Scott Prater
The 3rd Space Operations Squadron started its Schriever Intramural Volleyball match against 6th Space Operations Squadron two players shy of a full squad. To make matters worse, the team forfeited a point every fifth rotation because of the missing players.
Despite those handicaps, 3 SOPS players persevered, eventually evening the match at a game a piece before falling 16-14 in the third.
Yes, 6 SOPS escaped with a 25-15, 23-25, 16-14 win to even its record at 2-2, but the victory proved anything but easy.
Thanks to some dominating play from 6-4 outside hitter Corey Garcia, 6 SOPS rolled through its opponents in game one. While 3 SOPS players adjusted to their under-manned situation, 6 SOPS broke out a smooth offense, setting up Garcia for easy shots, both down the line and cross court.
As 6 SOPS eased through its scheme, 3 SOPS players spent most of their first game hoping another teammate might show up. Once they accepted their predicament, however, a new team took the court for game two.
“I realized I had a pretty good size advantage,” said 3 SOPS’ 6-foot-10 middle hitter Dean Lake. “And we felt like it was an area where I could kind of make up for the absence of a player at the net.”
Thanks to some solid passing from Angela Gray, the setting of Tim Gasmire and serving from Jason Gravitt, 6 SOPS built a comfortable lead to start the second. Kira Hernanez, 3 SOPS coach, called a time out midway through the game, and the team responded by roaring back, turning an 18-10 deficit into a 25-23 win.
Lake led the way, with multiple winners and overpass kills, but 3 SOPS also performed thanks to gritty defense and flat-out hustle.
Jason Chism, one of the shortest players on the court, stuff blocked Garcia at the net for the final point of game two, sending the match into a decisive third game.
“That was big,” said 3 SOPS’ Adrian Law. “I feel like that gave us a lot of momentum heading into that third game. We were getting effort from everybody, we had our coach keeping everybody in line and some folks cheering us on as well, so it was fun.”
On the other side, 6 SOPS coach Judy Kelley noticed her team was slumping.
“It’s tough to play against four,” she said. “We had a let down there in game two and when your opponents play with four it leads to an unpredictable offense. It’s not your standard pass, set, hit. Plus, their middle had like a 7-foot wing span, and he was hitting straight down. It was tough to defend.”
The teams played the final 28 points nearly dead even, with Lake dominating at the net and 6 SOPS scoring through tenacity and patience.
In the end, the match came down to two long rallies, when both teams scrambled to get the ball back over the net.
Despite its valiant efforts, 3 SOPS fell to 0-3, while 6 SOPS earned the win despite missing four of its top players.
“To me this match wasn’t really about volleyball skills,” Kelley said. “It was more about rallying, scrambling and possessing the tenacity to stay in points.”