MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- Marines and sailors tore up the volleyball courts during a 12-day-long training camp aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., in preparation for the 2013 Armed Forces Men’s and Women’s Beach and Indoor Volleyball Championship. With trials and tryouts behind them, the combined-service teams went on to compete against Army and Air Force teams from May 2 through 13 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
This year, instead of having All-Navy and All-Marine volleyball teams, the two services joined forces for the indoor competition. There are still two men’s and women’s teams of two players for each service for the beach competition.
The teams practiced twice a day on weekdays and on Saturday mornings, with the beach teams conducting additional practice sessions.
“It’s a little bit more [physical training] than I was used to, and plus volleyball is a different kind of working out than going running or doing stuff at the gym,” said Navy Lt. j.g. Abbie Merkl, team captain, All-Navy beach team player and an Upper Marlboro, Md., native. “It works muscles that you’re not used to. I was pretty sore, but it’s been fun. Volleyball is way more fun than doing the stuff we normally do for the [physical readiness test].”
The teams practiced jumping, serving, setting and spiking skills often to ensure that they’re ready to do battle with the other branches.
“Just like everything else in life, you can always improve on it,” said Marine Corps Capt. Michelle Augustine, team member and a Vista, Calif. native. “A large percentage of us have played in college and so you think that’s the pinnacle of your career, but you still come into the gym and there’s always a coach or another player who’s going to teach you something that you haven’t learned to make you better. I think that’s part of being in the military; always striving to do more than what you think you can physically and mentally.”
With years of experience in competitive volleyball behind her, Coast Guard Lt. Commander Kerry Karwan, assistant coach and an Oakland, Ore., native knows that cooperation is key when going for the gold.
“As the armed forces, we perform as a team in what we do to defend the country,” said Karwan. “This is a sports version of our camaraderie and teamwork that we have to display, just on a smaller level.”
According to Merkl, she has great confidence in her team because strong core values help them best represent the naval services.
“Being a part of a team, along with honor, courage, and commitment all sort of set in,” said Merkl. “[We have] commitment to being there for your teammates and on the court and trusting each other… and it takes a lot of courage to come out here and put yourself out there and try out for a team, especially as an adult when your ‘team days’ are over.”
With the gold in their sights, the players are going on to the competition knowing that they’ll leave with a unique experience under their belts. Augustine says that the experience has been rewarding so far, and it’s one that other Marines should have the chance to partake in.
“It’s a good break from the operational tempo. We’re still with Marines and sailors and we’re still creating that bond of professionalism between the services, but then we go back to the unit refreshed with a new perspective on things. If there are Marines out there who are interested and have the skills and capability to perform in an athletic environment like this, I think it’s something commanders should encourage Marines to do.”