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JBLM soccer team brings home 2nd place trophy

Team’s best performance in history of Military Defender’s Cup tournament

JBLM soccer team finished in 2nd place in the Military Defender’s Cup. Photo provided by the JBLM Soccer Team

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On Labor Day weekend, 14 Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) soldiers and two airmen competed in the Military Defender's Cup Soccer tournament in San Antonio, Texas.

"The Defender's Cup tournament is open to all branches of the DoD," said Capt. Micheal Awoyomi, Plans Officer, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion, who serves as head coach of the team. "This year's tournament featured 36 teams representing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine installations across the country. This year's JBLM team had the best performance, compared to past teams, that have represented the garrison in the history of the tournament,"

According to Awoyomi, a total of 36 teams competed in the tournament. The 16-man team (short six players of the authorized 22) survived the Texas heat to advance out of the first round consisting of three games. After the first round, the teams were divided into two brackets based on performance. The JBLM team was assigned to the Defender's Shield Bracket, and after four more games, won the second place trophy in their division.

"JBLM soldiers and airmen played seven matches in less than 72 hours and returned home for the first time with a trophy and medals. This achievement could not have been possible without the support of the individual command teams, families, and the team sponsor," Awoyomi said.

In addition to Awoyomi, Staff Sgt. Guillermo Jimenez, Washington Army National Guard, serves as the assistant coach. Tony Wingfield, U.S. Army Retired, is the team manager and Sgt. First Class Perfecto Lozano, Madigan AMC, is the team trainer. Over 80 soldiers and airmen tried out for the team. In addition to having great soccer skills, team members must be positive role models and ambassadors for the JBLM community.

The team is sponsored by Mark Leszczak, Financial Advisor, First Command Financial Services, and a veteran. "He has supported the team for over two years, helping to bear a large portion of the financial burdens associated with the various tournaments and leagues the team has played or is currently playing in this year. He also attends many of the team's games both local and across the nation. He is an invaluable asset to our team and our success," explained Awoyomi.

The team played in a physically demanding tournament where they played seven games in less than 72 hours, short of a full roster, in blistering Texas heat. Awoyomi attributes their success to their heart.

"The players that participated in this year's tournament simply refused to give an inch at any time, despite being comprised of 11 players who had no previous experience in this tournament. Guided by the experience and leadership of Memo Jimenez, Perfecto Lozano, Jared Weiler and Thierry Ndika, the veteran players on the team, our players pushed through the physical and mental demands of the tournament. The camaraderie we spent countless hours and efforts fostering over months, and in some cases years, of playing together was evident in every game. Our players played for each other, even when on the sideline, they continued to push each other. Simply put, our players had the heart of champions," he said.

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