Davis-Monthan Hosts Regional Volleyball Tournament for West Coast Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Robert Allen Cooke III
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base hosted a regional level volleyball tournament in the Benko Fitness Center for west coast Airmen on Jan. 13-14, 2024.

Seven west coast U.S. Air Force volleyball teams traveled to Davis-Monthan on permissive TDY to compete in the two-day tournament.

“The difference between this tournament and previous tournaments is that this is actually a regional tournament, which is eventually going to lead to a finals,” said Ian Ventura, director of the volleyball tournament at Davis-Monthan.

The teams competed for a chance to qualify for the national tournament that will be held at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Each team played a minimum of three games to determine their regional ranking.

“Whoever wins this regional will be the west coast champion, and those champions get to play in the national tournament,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ricky Moore, 612th Air Operations Center imagery analyst and vice president of the Desert Lightning Volleyball Club. “Along with the national championship, every team is invited to the invitational, which is another tournament happening in San Antonio. Whoever wins the invitational gets a free spot in next year’s championship.”

As vice president of the volleyball club, Moore had the opportunity to design the awards and accessories for the tournament. Specifically, Moore designed stickers, patches, flyers, team shirts, trophies, and medals for the competition. Moore also worked with his teammates to create name for the tournament.

“Everyone kept bringing up the sun, and so then I was just like, ‘Okay, what if it’s ‘Tournament of the Sun,’ but in Spanish? ‘Torneo Del Sol,’” Moore said. “We went ahead and named it that.”

In the promptly named Torneo Del Sol tournament, each participating base had the opportunity to send three divisions into the competition, including: a men’s division, a women’s division, and a co-ed division. The men’s and women’s divisions played simultaneously on the first day, and the co-ed divisions played on the second day prior the awards ceremony.

“For each division, we took the stats that they had to rank them right,” said Tech Sgt. Merida Diaz, 755th Operational Support Squadron cryptologic skills program manager. “They wrapped up their points over this last year. We had to take their rankings and then make a bracket that guarantees them three games.”

Diaz said that the base league coordinator, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Landgren, made the bracketing system that allowed a three-game minimum for each team. Diaz organized a two-day schedule based on that bracket system.

Diaz was the setter and outside hitter for the women’s team. With sixteen years of volleyball experience, Diaz took on roles such as the event coordinator, the team’s interim coach, and the organizer of the women’s division.

“I’ve been with the women’s team from the beginning,” Diaz said. “Getting here to this point, it’s taken a lot of extra time, a lot of coordination, a lot of communication, and it’s really opened my eyes at least to how complex not only hosting a tournament is, but also keeping a team together.”

Diaz said that any Airmen interested in joining the Davis-Monthan volleyball team, called the Mustangs, can reach out to the head coach. McKenzie Rath accepted her position as the head coach after responding to a base wide email.

“I’m specifically coaching the men right now,” Rath said. “I have two captains coaching and playing with the women’s team. I’m technically the head coach because I run all the practices, but I think that with the men’s team, we have a really solid group of guys.”

At the conclusion of the tournament, Travis Air Force Base, California, won the competition for the women’s and co-ed divisions, while Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, won the competition for the men’s division. The women’s division of the Davis-Monthan Desert Lightning Team, formally known as the Mustangs, came in 2nd place overall. They started preparations to attend the next volleyball invitational tournament that will be held in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, next month.

“We’ve seen a lot of improvement in the chemistry between each of the players,” said Rath. “I think that once we kind of get into a rhythm, we’re really good.”