15 MDG rallies to defeat MIDPAC in three sets

Senior Airman Jon Henry, of 15 MDG, goes above the net for a kill attempt.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

The 15th Medical Group (15 MDG) dropped the first set, but came back to win two in a row to defeat Middle Pacific (MIDPAC) 14-25, 25-19 and 15-11 Aug. 1 in an intramural volleyball Blue Division matchup at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The win was the first for 15 MDG, which started off the season with four straight defeats, while MIDPAC lost for the fifth time against one victory.

“So this is our fifth game now, and it’s taken us a few games to jell,” said Senior Airman Derrik Fleton, whose big serves in the final set locked up the match for the 15 MDG. “It usually takes us about 10, 12 points to start warming up. Finally things are coming together after five weeks, so it was a good game.”

Early in the first set, the 15 MDG kept pace with MIDPAC, but after a serving error gave the ball to MIDPAC on a side-out, things spiraled out of control pretty quickly.

With Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Andy Aceret serving for MIDPAC, the team went on a four-point run to take a 12-6 lead.

Three straight service aces by Staff Sgt. Stephanie Bushnell pulled 15 MDG back to within three points at 14-11, but after a side-out on a kill by Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Chris Clark raised MIDPAC’s lead back to four, Clark took over at service and sparked his team to its largest rally of the game.

After a hitting error by the 15 MDG made it 16-11, Clark delivered up five straight aces to give MIDPAC a 21-11 advantage and a clear path for the win in set one.

In the second set, it started to look like MIDPAC was going to sweep the 15 MDG after a kill by Clark led to a 12-6 lead.

However, after a side-out made the score 12-7, Senior Airman Keshia Dornish picked up three aces from service and led a comeback to tie the score at 12-12.

Later, as the 15 MDG hung on to a 19-17 lead, Airman 1st Class Olivia Kelkenberg got three aces from service to help her team take a 23-17 advantage. The game was finished off on an ace from Bushnell.

“Halfway through the second set, we just had our strongest six out there,” Felton pointed out. “When we started to figure out who was weak in certain positions, we just jumped in and filled those spots with people who were strong.”

Now tied at one set apiece, both teams came out strong for the third and deciding set.

Down by two points, the 15 MDG got the ball back on a side-out, before handing the ball over to Felton for service – facing a one-point deficit.

The 15 MDG tied the score at 11-11 on a hitting error by MIDPAC, and then, Felton took control with back-to-back aces, before delivering two more hard serves that finished off MIDPAC.

“You just don’t overthink it; just like anything else that’s stressful in life,” Felton said about how he was able to stay calm during a critical moment in the game. “I, personally, work better under pressure. When you start to overthink it, instead of just doing what you’ve been doing, then you start messing things up because you start second guessing yourself.”

While Felton agreed that everyone on the team mainly comes out to play volleyball and have fun, it’s also pretty nice when you can walk away with a win.

“It feels really good – especially, all of the people, we work in the same squadron,” Felton said. “It feels nice to get away from all of that, get the uniform off and just come and hang out. When you win, it’s even better.”

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Category: Sports