By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., June 29, 2015 – The Army volleyball team took the gold medal in a three-game match against the Air Force at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games here yesterday.
The Army team beat the Marines in the first playoff matchup, and the Air Force sealed a gold match spot with a win over the U.S. Special Forces Command team June 27. The Marines triumphed with a two-game win over U.S. Special Operations Command in the bronze medal match.
As the Air Force and Army teams took to the court for the gold medal match, one side of the stands chanted, “Here we go Air Force, here we go!” as the other side answered, “Let’s go Army, let’s go!”
Kari Miller, Air Force volleyball head coach and Paralympic athlete, felt confident about her team before the match.
“It’s going to be a really good game against two really good competitive teams,” she said. “We’re a strong, determined team. They’re agile. They’re really strong at keeping ball control. They’re very versatile, in that they can play jump ball and play structured sitting volleyball.”
Medically retired Army Staff Sgt. Monica Southall said her team was focused as well, and not only on the gold medal. Although Team Army already was assured of winning the coveted Warrior Games Chairman's Cup, which goes to the branch that earns the most medals throughout the week, the Army team didn’t know that at the time, and it fueled them for the win.
“We worked really hard to get here,” Southall said. “Our team is playing really well. If we continue to play well, we’ll come out with the victory today. Our biggest strength is our communication and just great team play.”
Tough Three-Game Match
The Air Force team started strong and full of energy, keeping control of the ball and taking the first game, 25-16. Fueled by the energy of the crowd and wanting to win the Chairman’s Cup, the Army team came back strong in the second game. As they rallied, the ball went to the Air Force team with Army ahead 24-19, one point away from a victory.
“We only need one; hold them back,” Southall told her team. The Army held the Air Force off, setting up the third game, which would decide the gold medal.
The Army team jumped to an early 5-0 lead. The Air Force team rallied, but the Army team kept them at bay, finishing them off with a 15-6 match and earning the gold.
An Amazing Job
Miller said that considering the Air Force team had only one returning player, they did an amazing job.
“Most of them were trained two months ago, so for them to come together and do what they did, it’s freaking amazing,” she said. “I’m so proud of them. The Air Force has never made it to the medal round, and they just earned the silver medal. Who knows what they’ll do next year?”
The Air Force team captain, medically retired Staff Sgt. Nicholas Dadgostar, said he was proud of his team as well.
“Everybody played their best,” he said. “We had our runs, and we had our downs, but nobody gave up. Everybody kept pushing. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
For Southall, being back in a gold medal round was special, because she was part of the 2012 Army gold medal team.
“To make it back to the gold medal match, beating the Marines, was awesome, and then to bring it out in a three-set victory was amazing,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. They really pulled together. We started out slow, but we got it together, and we got the victory."
"This is a team; this was a team effort,” she continued. “We could not have done it without every single player, from the ones on the floor to the ones on the bench. This was a complete team effort for this victory. This is a great way to end the Warrior Games.”
Army head coach Uros Davidovic said confidence and support sealed the win for the Army team, which kept the ball in play and was the more aggressive team.
“The team performed outstandingly for the course of this tournament, and even after losing this first game, we looked around and we saw nothing but confidence and support. And regardless of the score, if you see that, you’ve already won.
“I could not be prouder of their effort,” he added. “And we were rewarded for that effort today, and we were the better team against the very, very formidable Air Force team, so I could not be prouder of this team and their effort and their mental focus -- the adjustments they made and how they executed. I could not be prouder of them, and we’re going to be here next year to defend this.”