Opening Warrior Games competition leaves Army little to celebrate
Members of the Army volleyball team go up against the Marines during Warrior Games tournament play at the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11. The Marines prevailed twice over the Army.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army News Service, May 12, 2010) -- You win some, you lose some.

That statement sums up the Army's scorecard after the first day of competition at the inaugural Warrior Games held at the Olympic Training Center. The games, May 11, featured preliminary rounds in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball, where the Army finished the night with just one win and four losses -- including a total blowout by the Marine Corps on the hardwood.

In volleyball, the Army teams put up a good fight, but came up short on both sides of 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.

However, 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 would exchange the lead three times when Sgt. Johnathan 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. We'll get them next time," Moreno said. "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 okay," White 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, 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," Marklain 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 of the night. Army volleyball teams lost to Air Force (27-25 and 25-16), making them 0-3 against the services.

Go Army, Beat Navy!

It wasn't reason to storm center court, but anytime Army beats Navy is cause for celebration. In the first wheelchair basketball contest of the Warrior Games Tuesday evening, 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 Parachute Rigger 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, we've got the spirit and we're out to win this thing, we're going to make it happen," Lunsford said.

However, Lunsford now realizes that his team will have to beat the Marines, and after Tuesday's night 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 the early matchup.

In both contests, Marine Corps Pfc. Jesse 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 played 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, Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Lunsford is hopeful for a different outcome when the two teams meet again later this week in the tournament. "It's going to be a different day," he said, mulling over his next game plan. "We'll have to wait and see what the outcome will be."

One thing Lunsford knows for sure: any outcome is likely to be better than the last.

Page last updated Wed May 12th, 2010 at 09:39