By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The United States Air Force Warfare Center survived a pair of late rallies from the 6th Space Operations Squadron to win the Schriever Air Force Base intramural volleyball championship May 21 in straight sets, 25-20 and 25-22.
“We worked really hard this season and came together as a team,” said USAFWC member Jonathan Szul. “[6 SOPS] is a great opponent and it was a fun game.”
For 6 SOPS, the bell struck midnight on its Cinderella run through the playoffs. The sixth seed coming in, 6 SOPS defeated the third seed, 22 SOPS, in the quarterfinals and the second seed, 4 SOPS, in the semifinals to reach the championship game, but couldn’t get past the top-seeded USAFWC to complete the sweep.
“We started the season kind of iffy,” said 6 SOPS member Tim Gasmire. “We became a well-oiled machine at the end of the season and into the playoffs.”
6 SOPS rallied from 10- and 8-point deficits in the first and second sets, respectively, but USAFWC was able to hold on both times. USAFWC used a timeout to quell the rally in the first set.
The game started evenly as the teams traded points to a 4-4 tie in the first set. USAFWC took advantage of some unforced errors to build a 20-10 lead before 6 SOPS began its rally. 6 SOPS scored seven straight on three unforced errors, two blocks, a kill and an ace, leading USAFWC to call its timeout.
“We said we needed to come together and bring up our defense [during the timeout],” Szul said. “We just wanted to slow down the game and bring the momentum back to our side.”
The strategy worked as USAFWC scored the first point following the timeout to make it 21-17. 6 SOPS was able to pull within two points at 22-20, but USAFWC scored the final three points in succession to take the set.
6 SOPS was able to use a pair of long volleys early in the second set to gain a 5-3 lead before the USAFWC was able to tie the set at 7-7. The set stayed even as the teams tied at 9 apiece. Then USAFWC went on a 12-4 run to gain a 21-13 advantage. 6 SOPS rallied again, pulling to 24-22, but USAFWC got a kill on the next point to end the match and take home the title.
Szul said his team knew they wanted to finish the match without going to a third set because of the potential for a huge momentum shift.
“We always thought we had to finish the match [without going to another set],” Szul said. “We knew what we had to do, pulled together and did our jobs.”
Gasmire said the rallies spoke to the character and attitude of his team.
“We said coming in that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said. “[The rallies] speak to our character and never give up attitude. We left it all on the floor. Our hat’s off to USAFWC, it was an amazing [match].”