MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Combat Logistics Company 36 bumped Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 25-20 to take first place in the Commander’s Cup Volleyball Single Elimination Challenge at the IronWorks Gym sports courts here Jan. 21.
CLC-36 took second place overall in last year’s Commander’s Cup, but it has captured an early first place lead with 30 points for the cup’s first event.
“(Second place) was good,” said CLC-36’s 1st Sgt. Michael Pritchard. “We’re one of the smallest units on base and we go on a lot of deployments. So we’re not always here for the Commander’s Cup events.”
“You can’t complain with a second place,” he added.
In the first round of the volleyball challenge, CLC-36 crushed Marine Aircraft Group 12.
CLC’s second round was not nearly so easy.
Operations fought fiercely, forcing CLC to earn the “W” 29-27.
Meanwhile, MALS-12 barely scraped by the Branch Health Clinic in round one.
By round two against Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, the MALS-12 players had tightened their game up and spiked past Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron to setup the final bout.
“We just needed to relax, take time and realize what we needed to do,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Lowry, MALS-12 player and 15-year volleyball veteran.
In the final round, the MALS-12 players were much more fluid as a team. They set the ball more effectively and took an early 4-0 lead.
CLC pushed back, but MALS-12 continued to maintain a 3-point lead until about 12 points.
The key for CLC-36 came in the adjustments.
Initially Lowry was catching CLC’s players off guard with his devastating spikes.
The slinky effect of the score was caused by the positioning of MALS-12’s players.
Subtle shifting of CLC’s players allowed them to more effectively handle Lowry’s spikes.
By the time MALS-12 had 14 points, CLC had gone on a tear.
CLC closed the gap and tied the game at 14-14, prompting MALS-12 to take a timeout.
At this point, the primarily CLC-36 crowd was roaring and on its feet. With nearly 40 people chanting for CLC-36, the momentum had swung definitively in CLC’s favor.
“The crowds really what kinda helped make the game,” said Lowry. “When you can’t hear your own teammates you gotta do what you gotta do.”
The MALS-12 players did their best to operate effectively despite the howling crowd, but in the end they were unable to ever retake the lead.
Near the end, CLC had positioned Michael Salinas to combat the spiking Lowry.
To hear Salinas describe it made the job sound easy.
“They just told me to go ahead and block his shots and that’s what I did,” said Salinas.
Salinas knocked three of Lowry’s spikes right back onto the MALS-12 side for points.
Each time the crowd erupted like Vesuvius.
Both Pritchard and Salinas said the unit is highly supportive of its sports teams and this, this was no different.
At 24-20, “This is game point,” echoed through the gym burying, forcing all other sound out.
MALS-12 would not score again: the crowd had seized the moment with the voracity of a lion on a wounded gazelle.
CLC-36 wrapped it up 25-20 and, as expected, the crowd flooded the court to congratulate the team.
Last year’s overall winner, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, was knocked out of the volleyball challenge early by Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, which took third place.
The next Commander’s Cup event, the Endurance “Mystery” Challenge, is scheduled for Feb. 18.
Teams of four with at least one female will compete in an indoor endurance challenge.