Always Ready, Set, Spike!

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - A Coast Guardsman attempts to block a spike by Casey Jennings, a professional volleyball player and husband of Olympian Kerri Walsh, Dec. 4, 2010.  Gold Medal winner Walsh invited the Coast Guard to participate in a charity exhibition volleyball tournament, along with other Los Angeles area law enforcement agencies.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew SchofieldREDONDO BEACH, Calif. – A five-man team of Coast Guardsmen had the rare opportunity to play an exhibition match against two decorated professional volleyball competitors in Redondo Beach, December 4, 2010.

Two crewmembers from Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles-Long Beach, Petty Officer 1st Class Dugan Mcelroy and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Haldeman and three air crewmen, Lt. Joel Cooper, Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Biesel, Petty Officer 2nd Class David Hetticher, from Air Station Los Angeles played in an exhibition match against Olympian Kerri Walsh and her husband Casey Jennings. They wanted to see if they had what it takes to stand in against a Gold Medal winner for the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s exhibition volleyball match.

Between the two champion athletes, they have a volleyball resume that is a mile long. Walsh is one of the best female volleyball players of all time. She has twice received the Association of Volleyball Players Most Valuable Player award, brought home a Gold Medal from the 2004 Athens Summer Games, and has won many titles over her seven-year professional career. Jennings also has multiple awards to his credit and is one of the top male professional volleyball players, ending 2010 with a Gold Medal at the Swatch FIVB World Tour.

After a warm-up match with the Redondo Beach Police Department team, it was time for Team Coast Guard to take on the professionals. While the team of Coasties had the advantage of four players on the sand and a fifth as a substitution, the husband and wife tandem won the first match rather quickly. Walsh and Jennings then proposed a friendly bet to encourage the overmatched Coast Guardsmen a little. The pros would give them 11 of the 15 points needed to win, but the loser would have to take a dip in the cold Pacific Ocean. They shook on the deal.

It was a furious battle as the pros evened the score at 14, when Walsh let her fear be known.

“I really don’t want to get in that cold water!”

And with that motivation, Walsh and Jennings spiked their way to a 16-14 victory over Team Coast Guard.

With smiles on their faces, team members succumbed to the terms of their lost wager and headed to the water’s edge.

“It was exactly what I expected and more,” said Biesel, an Aviation Maintenance Technician.

“Never did I expect to win, but I was glad that I got to take a couple of points from them,” said Lt. Joel Cooper, a pilot with the Royal Australian Navy currently assigned to Air Station Los Angeles.

“Getting a block on Kerri was the highlight of my day,” added Cooper.

The afternoon at the beach served as a welcome break from the stressful day to day life of a Coast Guardsman and provided the crewmembers with a once in a lifetime opportunity … to get sand in their shorts and an impromptu swim in the ocean.

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