Team MXG keeps winning streak going

Tech. Sgt. Ryan Hunt attacks the net for a kill attempt.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Playing in its eighth game of the season, Team MXG entered its matchup against the 324th Intelligence Squadron (324 IS) as the only undefeated squad in the entire Blue Division. After defeating the 324 IS in straight sets, 25-11 and 25-21, on Aug. 15 at Hickam Fitness Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the streak continued on.

“We’re just going with the flow,” Tech. Sgt. Ryan Hunt said. “It’s nice to be undefeated, but really what it comes down to are the playoffs, right? We can be undefeated going into the playoffs, you lose the first game and you’re out. Our goal is play our best and then get into the playoffs. That’s where we really shine.”

From the start of the match, Team MXG seemed to have the upper hand, as the 324 IS got on the court with only five starters, which is one short of the regulation six players.

Team MXG immediately took advantage of the shorthanded 324 IS by storming out 5-0 to start the first set, with hitter Tech. Sgt. Christopher Yarbrough slamming down two kills.

A short time after that, Hunt knocked down back-to-back kills to give Team MXG a 9-2 advantage.

Still in cruise control, Team MXG ballooned the lead up to double digits at 16-6 off of an ace by Keith Myers, a Department of Defense civilian, whose jump serves have been a huge weapon for the squad.

Finally, with Team MXG ahead at 22-11, Staff Sgt. Tyra Tandal went to the back for service and led a string of three straight points to close out the first set.

After the previous week, where Team MXG was forced to three sets by a tough 37th Intelligence Squadron, who also played with only five players, Hunt said that the thought against the 324 IS was to stop them as early as possible.

“It’s always our mindset to try and close it out,” he said.

“I don’t think we were playing as well as we could have, our energy wasn’t there and we weren’t as focused. It was better energy than last week, but it still wasn’t quite there.”

In the second set, Team MXG came out on fire with a 6-0 start, but just as Hunt said, the squad just wasn’t as focused as it was in the first set.

After a side-out put the 324 IS on the scoreboard, Yarbrough helped put Team MXG on a 3-0 run to extend the lead to 9-1, but from there the 324 IS started to make a comeback.

It started off in small increments and when Tech. Sgt. Edmond Gray posted back-to-back kills, the 324 IS pulled a bit closer at 16-9.

At the end, the 324 IS cut the lead down to three at 24-21 after getting four points in a row.

However, a kill by Master Sgt. Salvador Baltazar finally put the game away for good at 25-21.

For the second game in a row, Yarbrough brought the heat in delivering five kills, one block and an ace.

“He’s (Yarbrough) really athletic and just sheer height,” Hunt noted. “He started off as a basketball player, but his volleyball IQ is getting there. He’s on it; he’s watching.”

Hunt said that, come playoff time, he expects Team MXG will be ready and in full post-season mode.

Two seasons ago Team MXG made it to the finals against perennial powerhouse Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) and almost walked away with the trophy.

This time, Hunt said that if Team MXG gets to play the HIANG again in the finals, the final result just might be different.

“Two years ago we made it against the HIANG and we almost took them,” Hunt pointed out. “Most of our guys had played with them, so we know how the team moves, who the key players are and how they can get into your head. I think we’ll make it again and, hopefully, we’ll make a game of it against the HIANG.”

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Category: Sports