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Volleyball players go for the gold

Pair of JBLM athletes meet in championship match during recent Armed Forces volleyball tournament

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:42PM August 2nd, 2012
Volleyball players go for the gold

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

“I’m a firm believer of reality. Every year you go and you never know who’s going to come out,”says Eric Latson, about qualifying for the All-Army team.

The timing for All-Army athletics may not always be ideal for the athlete, but the opportunity is something that is. As Eric Latson prepared to leave Joint Base Lewis-McChord May 29 for the All-Army volleyball trial camp at Fort Bragg, N.C., he knew it meant he would have to abandon his 593rd Sustainment Brigade intramural team during the playoffs.

“I was begging the (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) staff to rush the tournament so I’d be there,” Latson said.

But the tournament bracket was set and Latson had a flight to catch. While 593rd Sust. Bde. was unable to repeat as JBLM Army champions, Latson went on to find success in June with a gold medal as captain of the All-Army team.

The sergeant first class assigned to 22nd Human Resources Company led the All-Army team to a perfect 6-0 record at the 2012 Armed Forces Men’s Indoor Volleyball Championship at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. The All-Army team went undefeated two years in a row and claimed two gold medals.

“We have a great bond,” Latson said. “There were a lot of guys who played last year and again this year. We were determined to win our title again.”

Technical Sergeant Jess Denton of JBLM helped lead the Air Force team to a silver medal. The middle blocker was also selected to the All-Tournament team.

For a second year, Latson was selected to represent the Armed Forces Team in the Council of International Sports Military world tournament in Amsterdam, Netherlands July 9 to 17. The U.S. team opened the tournament with a loss to the host team and was eliminated after a 1-3 record.

“For international teams their job in the military is to play sports,” Latson said. “For the American military we have a job and for this one month we get together and it’s considered our sport. It’s a little bit tougher to make a team in two weeks, train and go compete against a national team that trains together all the time.”

Latson has come a long way since he made his first All-Army team four years ago. Latson grew up a tennis and track athlete, and it wasn’t until he was stationed in Germany that a friend of his introduced him to a sport that would take him across the country and world.

Around the time Latson arrived at Fort Lewis in 2009, he played his first year with the All-Army team, but he was not a starter. Since then he plays for a variety of local teams as well as JBLM intramural teams. But every year that he heads into a trial camp, he knows his spot is not secure.

“I’m a firm believer of reality,” Latson said. “Every year you go and you never know who’s going to come out. We have deployments and unit missions. You’re not guaranteed to get the same people.”

But the Army was lucky to have many of last year’s gold medal team return this year. The 29-year-old Latson hopes to play for the Army beach volleyball team next year, as well as help the indoor team from a different role.

“This year there were a lot of young players and I sort of saw myself as a big brother to some of them,” he said. “I would love to try to coach so we can build a program. Hopefully next year I will be coaching.”

But Latson is keeping his options open.

“Unless I decide to play.”