JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
The Air Force Women's Softball Team has placed second the last two years during the Armed Forces Softball Championship at Fort Sill, Okla., but some members believe their luck is about to change when this year's tournament starts Sunday.
"From looking at box scores, (our) teams didn't hit the ball too well and scored low, so our focus is to improve hitting and put runs on the board," head coach Senior Master Sgt. Salomon Vieyra, an Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency functional manager at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, said. "Once we do that, we'll be hard to stop."
This is Vieyra's first stint as head coach after serving as an assistant coach in 2012. His team's second-place finish that year left him disappointed, so he's ready to overcome those feelings with a squad that shares his competitive drive, he said.
Staff Sgt. Schameka White, who is stationed at Kadena Air Base in Japan, said this is the best group she's played with since debuting for the team in 2005.
"Our team chemistry has clicked since day one," the co-captain said. "There has been zero drama among the players and everyone is dialed into a team concept."
Training camp began Aug. 28 at JBSA-Randolph with 21 active-duty women trying out. Coaches eventually trimmed the roster to 15 players and practices resumed, often three times a day until camp ended.
Nine newcomers joined six returning players. One member, Staff Sgt. Lyndsay Moen from JBSA-Lackland, is representing Texas.
They arrive Saturday in Oklahoma, where games begin the next day and conclude Sept. 19.
A team from each military branch competes in the tournament and is scheduled to play nine total slow-pitch games. The one with the best record wins the event.
White said since her involvement with the tournament, winners have either been from the Air Force or Army, "so I have my sights set on the Army."
Senior Airman Amber Devlin, stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, said she might have the jitters when she steps on the field representing the Air Force for the first time, but she'll draw on 20 years of softball experience to keep her cool.
"I expect to play against the best of the best in the military, but I'm confident in our communication skills and the leadership our vets have shown during practice," she said.
For Vieyra, strong team chemistry with experienced players "leading by example and not talking down to others" will take his team a long way.
"Even though it's a short time to prepare for this, all my players have put in hard work and we're ready to go," he said. "We all want the same thing, which is a gold medal around our necks."