By Robert Whetstone
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - The Team Army sitting volleyball team road the proverbial rollercoaster on its way to beating Team SOCOM 2 - 0 in a best of three set match for the bronze medal. The medal round matches took place June 8, 2018 in Clune Arena, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, during the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
Team Army swept through pool play on June 3, coming out undefeated in its three matches going into preliminary rounds on June 4. The tables turned slightly, with Team Army dropping a three set thriller to Team Air Force, and a nail-biter to Team Navy. Because of their 3 win, two loss record, Team Army advanced to the bracket round beating Canada, then dropping another close match with Team Navy. Their record secured them a shot at the bronze medal against Team SOCOM.
For Warrior Games, athletes are classified into one of three functional classification categories for team play. Open category - minimal functional limitations; Moderate category - moderate functional limitations; Maximum category - maximum functional limitations. A minimum of one maximum disability athletes are required to play at all times. Only three (3) open or minimum disability athletes may play at any time.
The playing area is different from the traditional volleyball court. It measures ten meters by six meters and a three meter free zone on all sides of the court is recommended. The top of the sitting volleyball net is at about 3.5 feet.
Play at the net is important, but it all starts with the serve. Team Army's serve was a little inconsistent during bracket play, and in the bronze medal match, they appeared to have placed emphasis on fixing that. "The last two days we enforced that (importance of the service) pretty good," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ohlinger.
The crowd was raucous and both teams had to deal with the noise. "It affected us a little in the beginning, but once we started to focus on the game we just forgot about them." U.S. Army veteran Capt. Tim Bomke relayed a similar assessment. "We had much better communication today," he said. "We passed the ball much better and we got our serves in."
Bomke said Team SOCOM was an opponent that could get in your head. They were proficient at changing tactics. At a crucial point in the second set of the match, Team Army gave up the lead and looked in trouble of having to go to a third set against a tough opponent. "We really had to lock arms and get the ball back over (the net) because they went on a little run and got ahead, but luckily we were able to pull it together and get the 'W' (win).
The days between bracket play and the medal rounds seemed to help Team Army regroup and focus on the task at hand. The hard work and renewed focus was just what these Soldier/athletes needed.
"This feels amazing," said U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Chris McGinnis. "We got this win, brought home the bronze and I got to do it in front of my little man (son Ace). "I couldn't be any happier."
"It's always great to be on a winning team," said U.S. Army Sgt. Brent Sixkiller. "This is the first team I've played on since college and I don't think I could change anything right now. "It's amazing."
For veterans like Bomke, the late start getting involved in adaptive sports is worth sharing with others who may not know about its benefits. "It's never too late," Bomke elaborated. Bomke suffered an injury from an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2005, resulting in a below the knee amputation of his left leg. "It's been over 10 years since I wore the uniform. We didn't have the Warrior Games back then but I didn't let that stop me. I watched it last year and got super motivated and wanted to be on the Army team this year. It's never too late."
For more information on sitting volleyball and the results of the event go to: https://dodwarriorgames.com/games-results/2018-results/