Two teams from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) recently repeated as champion and runners-up in the Fort Detrick Champions' Invitational Tournament for co-ed volleyball.
The Walter Reed Attack defeated Walter Reed Bethesda, two games to none in the finals to win their second consecutive Fort Detrick Champions' Invitational Tournament title at Fort Detrick, Md., recently.
In addition to the two teams from WRNMMC, other teams that competed in the tournament included Fort Detrick's intramural champions U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and runners-up Defense Logistics Support Center (DLSC), and the Joint Base Andrews, Md., intramural champion volleyball team. Some players from Walter Reed Bethesda, including James Ling, 2nd Lt. Courtney Edwards, Hospital Corpsman Third Class Monica Montes and Sgt. Pamela Starkie, also competed on the USAMRIID team during the Fort Detrick intramural season and tournament.
Ling organized the base volleyball program at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), and continued it at WRNMMC when WRAMC integrated with the former National Naval Medical Center in August to form Walter Reed Bethesda. He explained that for the recent Fort Detrick tournament, the WRNMMC team "was [again] split up into two fairly equal teams, allowing for a high level of competitiveness and maximum participation for players. For the second consecutive, we brought home both trophies."
Coming a day after the region was hit by the powerful storm known as a derecho, which caused vast power outages and knocked down many trees and branches affecting travel, tournament play for Walter Reed Bethesda got off to a slow start. When players showed up late it caused the team to forfeit its first match to Andrews, who went on to win a match against USAMRIID, two games to one. The second match of the day saw the Walter Reed Attack, led by team captain Kelli Blaize-Wise, defeat DSLC two games to none.
The USAMRIID team then defeated DSLC, also two games to none, behind by the powerful hitting of Gil Ramos and the solid floor play of Walter Reed staffers Edwards, Montes and Starkie. With two defeats, the loss eliminated DSLC from the tournament.
In the winner's bracket, Walter Reed Attack blew out Andrews in their first game of the match, survived a scare from the joint base team after dropping the match's second game, and defeated them in the tie-breaking third game for the match win.
"With timely hitting from Navy Lts. Dan Hammer and Justin Orr, Walter Reed Attack was able to survive this very hard-fought match with the animated Andrews team," Ling said.
The loss bumped Andrews to the loser's bracket with two wins and one defeat.
With all of their players finally onboard, Walter Reed Bethesda had to work their way out of the loser's bracket because of the early forfeit, and win two matches to advance to the finals. Led by 1st Lt. Marko Benito and team captain Grace Wong, Walter Reed Bethesda won their first match against USAMRIID, two games to none, eliminating the Fort Detrick's team from the tournament.
Walter Reed Bethesda then faced Andrews to see who would play Walter Reed Attack for the championship. Walter Reed Bethesda prevailed, two games to none, eliminating Andrews from play and setting up the all Walter Reed final.
Ling said the Walter Reed Attack was the fresher team going into the final match, having to wait nearly three hours for their opponent to be determined, as Walter Reed Bethesda bumped off USAMRIID and Andrews to earn the honor.
"The power hitting and front line net play of Walter Reed Attack's Dan Hammer and Justin Orr would prove the biggest factor of all, as Walter Reed Bethesda ran out of answers, and gas," Ling said. He added Phil Huynh, Benito and Wong did their best to keep Walter Reed Bethesda in the match by digging up as many hits as they could from the taller Walter Reed Attack team, but in the end, Attack had "too much fire power to overcome."
The Attack won the match two games to none, as both teams came away from the tourney with trophies - the Attack, the championship prize, and Walter Reed Bethesda, the runner-up hardware.
"Key for us winning was consistency," Blaize-Wise said. She also attributed the victory to their "Wall of Defense" which consisted of the co- MVPs 6'5" Orr and 6'6" Hammer, as well as 6'4" Doug Sievers. "It makes the teams playing us change the way they hit because they can't hit through [them]. Most teams we played their adjustments fell short, and on top of our blocking, our offense was pretty successful in putting the ball away on the first attack. We really communicated well and made adjustments quickly. Everybody worked well together."
Huynh agreed the Attack's size was a factor in their win. "We played our hearts out to reach the final to lose to a better team," said the Army specialist.
Wong agreed, "You must take up the challenge in order to grow and improve your skills," said the Walter Reed Bethesda team captain. "You learn how to play as a team by utilizing each member's strength, but you must also compensate for each other's weaknesses. Playing in a tournament or a league always psyches me up and is a great mind and body stimulation."
Montes added, "What I enjoy most about playing is the camaraderie; we are all from different branches of the military yet we come together to have a good time."
Ling explained the Walter Reed co-ed volley ball team competes in local area tournaments such as in the Mid-Atlantic Volleyball Association, military tournaments, matches against local colleges and military installations, as well as play in local leagues.
The team practices most Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon in the fitness center in Building 17 at Naval Support Activity Bethesda. Those interested in participating in the base varsity volleyball program can attend a practice, or contact 1st Lt. Marko Benito at mark o.benito.milhealth.mi, Master Sgt. Rodolfo Santos at Rodolfo.santos.milhealth.mil, or Grace Wong at grace.wo ng.civhealth.mil.