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Volleyball: Army too much for AF in bronze medal round

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Devon Suits
  • Air Force News Service
Fans and players from the Air Force and the Army flooded into the U.S Olympic Training Center gymnasium Oct. 1, to watch as the two services clashed in this one last game with the 2014 Warrior Games sitting volleyball bronze medal on the line.

A strong start by the Air Force did not last long, as they went on to lose two straight sets to the Army, 25-20, 25-19, with the Army taking home the bronze and Air Force finishing fourth in sitting volleyball.

As people flooded in, Air Force Capt. Mitchell Kieffer took a moment to prepare in the corner of the gym alone. With a volleyball in his lap, he sat there, and focused intensely at the gymnasium wall towering in front of him.

His brief moment of solitude was quickly shattered by a fury of movements -- bump, set, spike. Kieffer’s hands and arms slammed the volleyball hard off the wall as it became his newest opponent.

“I was trying to make sure my reaction time was on par,” Kieffer said. “I am ready for the volleyball to come back at me … so I have no fear.”

As the players warmed up, a feeling of tension started to descend upon the court only to be shattered by a loud buzz from the scoreboard, both stands erupted -- it was game time.

“We have to win this game,” an Air Force fan said to his friend sitting next to him, “we just have to win.”

The Air Force took a quick lead 6-2, forcing the Army coach to call a timeout and settle his team down. Whatever he said worked, as the Army scored 11 unanswered points.

“We were firing on all cylinders, and everything that we were doing was working,” said Army Sgt. Scott Hasting.

Facing an uphill battle, the Air Force tried to bounce back, they slowly chipped away at the lead but in the end, the Army proved to be too much, taking the first set 25-20.

During the second set, the Army continued to steamroll their competition. Leading 21-10, it looked as if the Air Force had no response, until retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Dadgostar moved into the server position.

Like he did the during the previous night’s game against Navy, Dadgostar rallied point after point, hitting several aces and closing the gap 23-17 -- re-energizing the Air Force team and crowd. However, the late offensive push would prove to be too little and too late as the Army won the second set 25-19, clinching the bronze medal.

“I still think we were a gold medal team,” Kieffer said after the loss. “I am mad, and I wish we could keep on playing.”

The Warrior Games may bring out the competitive nature between the services, but according to Heather Erickson, an Air Force volleyball team coach, it’s about service members coming back from combat, rehabilitating their daily lives and finding that new normal.

“An adaptive sport doesn’t mean that it’s easier,” Erickson said. “They have put in so much work. They have come a very long way from where they started to where they are now, in volleyball and their recovery. This game is crazy in the way it works sometimes, and it didn’t come out the way we wanted to.”

For Kari Miller, being a coach for the Air Force team has been an awesome experience.

“(The Air Force team) has come far, and we’re proud of them,” Miller said. “This is the best they have ever been and hopefully they will get better.”