By J.D. LeipoldSeptember 10, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 10, 2012) -- For the first time ever, the Pentagon hosted a two-day National Collegiate Athletic Association women's volleyball tournament that brought together the three service academies with the Citadel and the University of Denver.
Ben Glon, director for the inaugural tournament, said the intent was to get all the service academies together in one central location, so they could play one another in a similar fashion to the way they play each other in football every year. The exceptions for the tournament were that Army and Navy would not compete since they meet twice a year within the Patriot League.
"Another reason we set this up was because most of the women who participate in this tournament will go on to pursue a life-long career of military service and at some point they will return here in their careers," Glon said. He also credited Air Force Academy volleyball coach Matt McShane for coming up with the Pentagon volleyball tournament idea.
The tournament is already scheduled for 2013 and 2014.
"Not only is this a huge rivalry -- Air Force-Army, Air Force-Navy, we also thought by bringing the players from academies together, the players would have a chance to trade some war stories about what goes on at each academy," McShane said. "It's really been a good event and the support we received from the Pentagon Athletic Center and the general officers who came down to visit with the teams has been remarkable."
Playing on a regulation volleyball court in the Pentagon's subterranean-level athletic center Sept. 7-8, the women's teams put on a no-holds-barred display of competitiveness that ended with a see-saw, barn-burner match between the West Point Black Knights and the Air Force Academy Falcons, who don't play one another during the regular season.
The Citadel Bulldogs kicked off the tournament against the University of Denver Pioneers, who won the match 3-1 (25-15, 25-18, 22-25 and 25-15). The Pioneers followed on with a 3-1 victory over Navy (24-26, 25-10, 25-12 and 25-15) and a 3-0 win over Army (28-26, 25-18 and 25-13).
Pioneers' coach Jesse Mahoney, who was pleased with his team for winning all their matches, said he really enjoys playing against the service academies.
"I really have a lot of respect for the young women who are in the academies, including the Citadel, so getting to play them is an honor for us and their program," he said. "To get to play in this venue and in the Pentagon was very special and our women were very appreciative of the experience."
While the Pioneers won their three matches, the Citadel lost to Army 3-0, Air Force 3-0 and Navy 3-1. Citadel assistant coach Amanda Newell, though, said the Pentagon tournament was a great experience for her team and even though they lost all their matches, they plan to be back.
"They got a little taste of what the women are like at the academies and to see how hard they work," she said. "We also saw a lot of Citadel alum here as well as Army, Navy and Air Force alumni who all complimented our team for their hard work, this has been an eye-opening experience for our team."
The Naval Academy team lost 3-1 to Denver (24-26, 25-10, 25-12 and 25-16), but beat the Citadel in four sets (25-20, 20-25, 25-15 and 25-17.) In its fight against Air Force, Navy started out by winning the first two sets (25-13, 25-14) then dropped the dropped the next three sets (25-17, 25-17 and 15-12) and lost the match 3-2.
AIR FORCE VS ARMY
The tournament closer pitted Air Force against Army and promised to be a thriller from the first serve.
In the first set, Army took a quick lead 6-1, running the score up to 12-5 before Air Force started closing the gap, getting to within four points of Army at 16-12. After trading points and Army ahead 22-14 with only 3 points more to take the win, Air Force moved up to 24-21, but then Army put the set away 25-21.
In the second set, Army looked to establish the pace again, but after a 2-2 tie, Air Force moved ahead making it 21-7 before Army mounted a comeback with five straight points, putting the score at 21-12. Air Force took the next three points, and then Army added five straight, making it 24-17. Air Force knocked out the second set on a failed Army serve 25-17.
In the third set, the teams split scores, tying at 14 and again at 18 apiece, then 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22. The score bounced back and forth until Army was up 25-24, needing to win by two. After Air Force took a time-out, Army finally finished off the third set on an ace and score of 26-24.
With a must-win to tie up the match at 2-2 and force a game 5, the Falcons moved out to a 15-14 lead before the Black Knights scored 2 straight and took the lead for the first time 16-15. Air Force climbed back on top making it 22-19. Army scored the next 3 points, making it 22-21. Air Force added another point with Army answering. Air Force next jammed the ball, making it 24-22. Again Army answered, scoring twice with yet another ace and tying the game at 24. Air Force stuffed the ball at the net taking the lead 25-24, but Army tied it up again before Air Force moved ahead 26-25.
The teams swapped points, tying each other at 26, 27, 28 and 29-29 before Army pulled out two consecutive points, making it 31-29 and winning the match 3 sets to 1.
West Point volleyball co-captain Francine Vasquez said the last time she played with the team against Air Force was when she was a sophomore, so she had looked forward to the match-up.
"It's always fun and intense, and it's great to come out with a win, especially in my senior year," she said. "And, it was great to see all the service members in the audience supporting us."