By Master Sgt. Doug SampleMay 14, 2010
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army New Service, May 14, 2010) -- The excitement was dizzying, the noise deafening and in the end Army's sitting volleyball team was literally left sitting at half court wondering how they let the gold medal get away.
The Marines won the tiebreaker 15-9 during final-round action at the Olympic Training Center Thursday during the third full day of Warrior Games competition.
"Our guys played their hearts out tonight," said Army's assistant coach, Staff Sgt. Shad Lorenz. "We came in and accomplished what we wanted to do, and that was to win a medal. At the end of the day we can walk out of here and be satisfied with ourselves. We are happy with how we played."
The head coach added: "We've only been together three or four days and for us to come together this quickly and come this far says a lot. We are happy to go home with the silver."
One thing the team can be happy about -- if it is any consolation - they proved that the Marines could be beaten. After losing 25-16 in the first match, Army's Team-3 handed the Corps its first loss of the tourney with an emotional 25-21 win in the second meeting.
However, mental mistakes and miscommunications haunted Army in the tiebreaker. And despite die-hard cries by comrades to "Go Army," any get-up by the team had already gone. Army never challenged and was outscored 7-1 en route to a 15-9 defeat.
"It got a little scary in the second game, so in the third we went back to our training and pulled together, mixed up our line to change the chemistry of the team and it worked," said Marine head coach Lt. Cdr. Sam Tickle.
Army's Team-3 got to the championship match after defeating a determined Air Force squad in three matches Thursday evening. Army won the first match 25-13. However, Air Force rallied to win the second match 25-22. Army won the tiebreaker 15-12 to advance, leaving Air Force with the bronze.
Meanwhile, in other events Thursday, the Marine Corps rolled over Army 44-15 to finish the wheelchair basketball tournament undefeated and leave Army's team with silver.
Army marksmen, though, proved they know how to handle a weapon by sweeping one shooting competition and earning four gold medals during the day.
Spc. Shawn Porter scored gold, followed by Sgt. Justin Widhalm (silver), and Sgt. Paul Roberts (bronze) in the air rifle standing (lower body impairment).
Sgt. Ryan Shurtleff won silver and Sgt. Alan Marley earned bronze in the air pistol (lower body impairment).
Capt. Juan Guerrero won the gold in air rifle prone (lower body impairment). Sgt. David Bratton added another gold medal in the air rifle prone (upper body impairment), while Sgt. Jantzen Frazier took first place in the air rifle standing (upper body impairment).
Sgt. Rachelle Renaud, one of two female shooters in the competition, soon became a crowd favorite. The military police officer entered the air pistol in sixth place, but with sharpshooter accuracy, she consistently placed shots near center mass. Her shots were slightly off in the late rounds and she wound up in fourth place, missing the bronze medal by a few percentage points.
"She's a great noncommissioned officer," said Col. William Greene, commander of the Warrior Transition Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, where Renaud receives care. "There is nothing that we did; she did it all herself. What she is doing today is part of her own personal healing, and we're extremely proud of her and all our warriors here today."
Across town at the Air Force Academy, the Army could only muster a single medal in the cycling events. Riding in 33-degree temperature and a slight snow fall, Staff Sgt. Freddy De Los Santo cranked his hand cycle to a second-place finish and the silver medal. Marine Sgt. Michael Blair took gold and Marine Sgt. Travis Green earned bronze in the event.
The dreary weather, slick roads and high altitude made crossing the finish line a welcome site.
Cpl. Joseph Rolon, who is recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Unit, was one of the final stragglers to finally make it in. "It was pretty tough going around those hills," he said. "I almost took a spill, but got back on course. I'm just glad I wasn't the last one in -- so that's a good thing."
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. made a surprise visit to the Warrior Games Thursday, shaking hands and talking with wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. During his visit, he also posed for photos, and handed out the silver medals to the Army wheelchair basketball team.
"What I saw in their faces was absolute pride to be out here," Casey said about the athletes.
Casey pointed out the importance of the Warrior Games to servicemembers, saying the games allow young men and women to compete and get those "competitive juices going again." He also said that he expects the games will have "trickle-down effect" where competitions will be held at Warrior Transition Units across the military.