For two weeks, the 2018 All Navy Men’s Volleyball team practiced in the Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville gym in preparation for the annual Armed Forces Championship, which runs from May 7-11 at Hurlburt Air Force Base near Pensacola.

It is the second consecutive year the men’s volleyball team has come to NAS Jacksonville to practice, while the women’s team practiced at Naval Station Mayport.

The team arrived April 23 and stayed through May 4.

“We did it last year and things went well, so they wanted to do it again this year,” said Bill Bonser, sports director of NAS Jacksonville. 

In addition to the practices, the team held scrimmages to get ready for the tournament. The first scrimmage was at Jacksonville Juniors Volleyball association, while the second scrimmage was held aboard NAS Jacksonville.

Twelve players will make the team to compete in the tournament out of 16 players brought to Jacksonville, including a player from Japan.

Several of this year’s players are returning from last years’ team. One of the returnees is Navy reservist Lt. j.g. Derek Britton. “I have a great time doing it. I think it’s a great way to represent my program. I just have fun with it.”

Britton said he started playing volleyball in the sixth grade.

“I played constantly after that.” This is the third year Britton has played on the team.

There is no limit to how long a player can be on the team. Second-year Head Coach William Berdecia said one player was on the team for 19 years before retiring two years ago. 

The returning players are one reason the coaching staff is optimistic about the team’s chances at the Armed Forces Championship.

“I’m excited. We are looking pretty strong,” Berdecia said.

“We are really optimistic we are going to get a medal this year.”

Bonser is also excited about the team’s presence on base.

“I love it,” Bonser said.

“I enjoy trying to serve these guys and take care of them and get them whatever they need. When they are coming from other bases to our base, we want to make them feel special here at NAS Jax. We want to give them the best care that we can.”