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Eglin Airmen bring home volleyball gold

  • Published
  • By Kevin Gaddie
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs

The Air Force volleyball women’s team won the gold medal at the 2019 Armed Forces Volleyball Championships.  This was the third consecutive year the team won.

Capt. Abby Hall, Armament Directorate, and 1st Lt. Riley Sullivan, 53rd Wing, were among the Airmen who competed against Army and Navy (with Coast Guard) at Fort Bragg, N.C. March 6-8.  It was Hall’s fourth year playing on the team and Sullivan’s second.

Air Force dominated Army and Navy in round-robin competition and claimed the victory with a 5-1 record.

“We were the only undefeated team after the second day, and that was when we knew we’d won gold,” said Sullivan, a five-foot-eight outside hitter on the team.

Hall, a six-foot-outside hitter, said the team made tremendous strides since their second-place finish four years ago.

“Since 2015, we’ve worked really hard to get good coaches and set up a great program,” she said.  “It’s been good for us, from the enlisted Airman to the officers.  I think everyone had a good time in a competitive atmosphere.”

Jay Van Vark, the women’s team coach, praised the Eglin players.

“Our repeat veterans, especially Abby and Riley, knew exactly what it would take for us to achieve gold,” he said.  "The connectedness of this group, their confidence and approach to training proved successful.” 

Hall, a Louisville, Ky. native, and Sullivan, from Geneva, Ill., played intramural volleyball here and at previous duty stations.  They also played in high school and college.

They were selected for tryouts in February at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.   After two weeks of practice, they were ready to compete in the tournament.

"We knew many of the Air Force women players from previous years, so we were comfortable around each other,” Sullivan, said.  “We also built camaraderie with the men’s team, and hung out with members from other service branches, off the court.”

Hall will play on the Armed Forces volleyball team, which selects the best players from the Air Force, Army and Navy, at the 2019 Military Sports Council Military World Games Oct. 15-27 in Wuhan, China.  She was previously selected for the team in 2017.

“It will be exciting to represent the Air Force and wear the USA jersey at the games,” she said.    

Hall, 28 and Sullivan, 24, encouraged military women thinking about competing at the Air Force level, to go for it.

“If you think you can play, then definitely try out,” Hall said.  “This area has great recreation leagues, volleyball competitions and beach tournaments happening all the time.  Find your avenue to play.  It’s a great, fun no-contact sport and it’s easy to learn.”

Sullivan agreed.

“The Armed Forces sports program is great,” she said.  “Any military women who are good at other sports besides volleyball, should check out the program.  They’re always looking for competitors.”

The volleyball players plan to compete for years to come.

“We love the game and I’ll keep playing as long as my body will let me.” Sullivan said.