JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) – The all-Air Force women’s volleyball team personified readiness and resiliency en route to winning the Armed Forces Championship May 18-20, at Naval Station Mayport, Florida.
After losing to the Navy to open the tournament, Air Force captured the gold medal by winning five straight matches. Air Force coach Nicki Holmes said he wasn’t surprised the team regrouped after their loss.
“I think after playing a tough, five-set match to Navy, we put ourselves in the best possible position to win,” Holmes said. “I had full confidence in our ability to respond to adversity and execute the next day. Nothing really had to be said more than remembering who we are as a team and making sure we brought our intensity and fight to the next match. I do believe that as the tournament progressed, we focused on just getting one point at a time, no matter the circumstances.”
Air Force bounced back with a four-game victory over the Army. Leading the way was 2nd Lt. Felicia Clement of the 62nd Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and 2nd Lt. Hillary Keltner of the 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
Clement, an outside hitter, averaged over 12 kills for the tournament. Keltner, a setter, averaged over 39 assists. Both were named to the 2017 Armed Forces All-Tournament team.
“Ultimately, after the Navy loss, we came together as a team and knew that it would be in our hands to control the odds the rest of the tournament,” Keltner said. “We talked about increasing communication on the court and executing more efficiently, and I think we did that.
“What makes volleyball so exciting is that on any given day, any team can win,” Keltner added. “We also had to be ready to adjust our strategy throughout the matches when we got down a few points or when our opponents started doing new things that we hadn’t particularly prepared for. We trusted in our talents and preparedness.”
That was evident on the second day of the tournament. Facing Army in the fourth match, Air Force found itself down 2-0. But Clement (15 kills) and Keltner (41 assists), along with 14 kills from middle blocker 2nd Lt. Taylor Parker of the 10th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and 10 kills from Capt. Caroline Kurtz of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, sparked the rally to win in five games.
Against Navy, Air Force led 2-0 and was down 24-12 in the third game. But Clement, Keltner and Kurtz helped Air Force reel off 14 straight points to complete the three-game sweep.
“I think every member found different ways to contribute,” Holmes said. “That was evident not only every day in practice, but in our execution of our game plans during the armed forces championship. All the Airmen showed great resiliency to being their absolute best both on and off the court. As exciting as it was to watch them succeed with an amazing victory against Navy in that fashion, it just showed their readiness for the moment.
“The team played those critical points just like they would in a practice, and as a coach, you cannot ask for better.”
Keltner said she is taking back much more than a championship for the Air Force to her duty station.
“The All-Armed Forces program is a lot more than just playing volleyball, and I got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event playing the sport I love and representing my branch of service and my squadron while competing with and against a group of amazingly talented and strong women,” she said. “I believe I am returning to my squadron a better person, a better officer and a better Airman.”
Clement, Keltner, Kurtz, Parker, middle blocker Capt. Abby Hall of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and libero 1st. Lt. Maiya Perich of the 392nd Intelligence Squadron at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, were named to the All-Armed Forces Team that will compete in the World Military Championship June 2-11 at NS Mayport.
Airmen interested in competing for Air Force sports can visit MyAirForceLife and fill out an AF Form 303.
Top: Second Lt. Hillary Keltner of the 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., sets the ball during Air Force’s match against Navy during the Armed Forces Volleyball Championship at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Photo by U.S. Air Force Steve Brown.