When I first planned my Labor Day weekend festivities in Annapolis every event themed around Navy football’s season opener against Holy Cross. Justin and I spoke about making the trip and then took the weekend plans one-step further and wanted to try a live podcast. The intent of the live event, we decided, was to learn and identify our shortcomings in an effort to produce an even better show for our next trip to Annapolis in October for the Navy-Air Force game (yes, standby). In the beginning stages of our plans we then learned that our graduating class (2009) was having its ten-year reunion the same weekend! We followed that discovery by initiating conversations with Seawolf Brewery and focused on collaborating with them to develop a fun tailgate atmosphere leading up to Saturday’s kickoff. We knew the weekend was going to be a huge success and a lot of fun: Opening week, a live podcast, reunion weekend, and a tailgate with Seawolf Brewery; I mean, what could be better?
Well - for a volleyball junkie like me, I found something that would make an already incredible weekend even better. Navy vs. Air Force volleyball squaring off in the Service Academy Challenge at the Pentagon Athletic Center. Yes, that Pentagon.
Before the Match
For those of you unaware, hosting a tournament at the Pentagon is no easy endeavor. The match was closed to the general public and the few spectators allowed (family and press) had to submit their information weeks ahead of time in order to make a pre-approved attendance list. You also can’t just drive up to the Pentagon, park your car, and walk inside the facilities. Instead, we (my wife and son included) were required to get ourselves to a bus stop at the Pentagon Metro station nearly 90 minutes before match time to ensure we could make it on a bus that would drop us off in walking distance to the Pentagon Athletic Center - essentially the gym for those stationed at the facility.
The first bus reached capacity in no time and we found ourselves waiting another half hour in the sun for bus number two before getting to the gym. All-in-all, we waited just over an hour before we found our court-side seats.
The gym didn’t have stadium seating and there was enough space for about 3-4 rows of folding chairs around half the court which actually created a pretty fun and electric atmosphere. There was a second-level view along the indoor track railing that certainly provided a unique viewing experience not often found in Division 1 NCAA volleyball.
We sat behind the court for the most part and found it a perfect location for this environment. We watched a Navy team that seemed to get more and more comfortable as the match progressed led by consistent play from outside attackers Amanda Montag and Maddi Sgattoni. The two juniors combined for 25 kills and contributed to a team .273 attacking percentage.
Bailey Keith led the Falcons with 14 kills and 4 blocks, also higher than any of her Midshipmen counterparts, good enough to be the match leader. Aside from Keith’s success, however, the Mids were too much for the Falcons to handle. Air Force totaled decreasing digs and attacking attempts with each set and their .214 hitting percentage couldn’t keep up with Navy’s offensive production.
Navy defeated Air Force in three-straight sets (25-21,25-21,25-21) to take the first win in our 2019-2020 Ike Award.
Volleyball Sweeps Air Force https://t.co/Y9kogQIfLk— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) August 31, 2019
What is next?
The Midshipmen finished the tournament 2-1 with a win over UConn and a four-set loss to Gonzaga. Navy travels to Richmond, VA this weekend to take on Alabama and UC-Santa Barbara in VCU’s tournament.
Air Force left the D.C. area win-less after eventually losing to both Gonzaga and UConn. The Falcons will continue their pursuit for their first win of 2019 at the Oral Roberts Invitational where they will battle the Golden Eagle hosts, Illinois State, and Arkansas Little Rock.
Air Force closed out the Service Academy Challenge with a 3-0 loss to Gonzaga this afternoon in DC. pic.twitter.com/Baqg1f4Xmo— Air Force Volleyball (@AF_Volleyball) August 31, 2019
I likened the Service Academy Challenge with the recent basketball events we have seen at military bases across the world. This was a chance for service academy teams, their civilian peers, and active duty military members to link together to form lifelong memories. Volleyball may not get the coverage we see in other sports but it has always meant something to me. This event actually allowed me to run into two of my former officer representatives as a member of the men’s club team and a number of former players on the women’s team from my time at the Academy. No matter what sport or collegiate event that may come to a military base near you,
I highly encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity and embrace the logistical challenge and resulting enthusiastic atmosphere.