Amazing streak of HIANG championships continues

2017 Joint Base intramural volleyball champions HIANG.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

To say that the Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) intramural volleyball squad is a dynasty is actually quite an understatement.

Since winning their first volleyball championship back in 2002, the team entered last week’s title matchup against the 15th Operations Group (15 OG) looking for their 16th consecutive first-place trophy.

In a battle of two first-place teams, the HIANG, champions of the Gold Division, squared off against the 15 OG, champs of the Blue Division. It was a winner-take-all showdown on Aug. 24 at Hickam Fitness Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Showing that the HIANG is not anywhere near slowing down, the team blitzed the 15 OG in straight sets, 25-9 and 25-9, to walk away with yet another championship trophy to add to their showcase.

“It’s the same for me. It’s like another day,” said HIANG team captain Tech. Sgt. Stephen Lorenzo, who is the only member of the squad to play in all 16 championships. “But for some, they know the history, but this is their first win.”

Tech. Sgt. Stephen Lorenzo hammers a shot through the 15 OG defense.

Perhaps feeling the need to lead by example, Lorenzo came out on fire and smashed back-to-back kills in helping HIANG take a 6-0 run right off the bat in set one.

Lorenzo went on to pick up two more kills and two blocks in the first set alone. The second block finished off the first set in an easy 25-9 win.

Fellow hitter Staff Sgt. AlanMichael Warner also added three kills, while setter Senior Airman Braden Park, who was back after being on TDY for a month, didn’t miss a beat in feeding the team’s big guns.

The HIANG’s first set win was so dominating that the team gave up only point at a time and didn’t allow the 15 OG to string any scores back-to-back.

“That was thanks to Braden,” Lorenzo said. “He’s the commander out there. He’s the one who makes the call and he chooses the hitters that comes out.”

Park said that while he felt a little rusty at first, it didn’t take long for him to feel right at home among his teammates.

“It was rough at first. I was getting the cobwebs out,” Park said. “I tried my best and my teammates helped me out a lot out there. They make me look good.”

The second set proved to be more of the same, as the HIANG broke away from an early 3-3 tie to score four straight points for a 7-3 advantage.

From there, HIANG out-scored the 15 OG 10-5, and when Warner served up an ace, the team’s lead ballooned up to double digits at 18-8.

Following the ace, Lorenzo and put down another kill and Lt. Col. Rick Cox got a block, before Warner added his second ace for a commanding 21-8 lead.

“Right from the start, I just said let’s play our game,” Lorenzo said. “We were just trying to make it hard for them (15 OG) to win. We minimized our mistakes and then giving the ball, as hard as we can, to them, so that they would have a hard time setting.”

As the only member with 16 titles to his name, Lorenzo, who at age 40, said that he’s not sure how long he can keep playing the game he loves.

Although he still looks to be at the top of his game, he said that it gets harder every year and he knows he’ll have to hang it up sooner or later.

“I actually have a limit coming up close,” he said. “I actually feel the age and 40 is pushing it. Can I do it until I’m 50? I don’t know. As long as you keep exercising, it doesn’t hurt as much and you can keep going.”

For now, Lorenzo said he’ll enjoy this year’s championship and hopes the HIANG can do it again next year.

“I hope we get a chance next year,” he said. “I’ll give my hardest effort and let the chips fall where they may. I feel like we have to earn it. Even though we may be favored, it doesn’t matter. We still have to earn it.”

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Category: Sports