Arla Duran-Velasquez and Carol Lee Jefferson, aka CiCi, teamed up for a volleyball knock down in the desert. These two organized a team to participate in the Lori Piestewa National Native Games, formally know as the Arizona State Game, July 8-9, 2016. These games were renamed after the untimely death of the first Indigenous Woman of North America to be killed in combat. Lori was in Afghanistan on March 23, 2003 and was part of the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss.
The official beginning of the games was held on July 15, 2016 in Tempe, AZ on the campus of ASU. There were 3,000 athletes, 7 sports, 94 tribes, 22 states and 3 countries represented and an estimated 15,000 spectators. A ceremony was held in Lori’s honor on July 15 with her family along with state, city, and other officials from the LPNNG.
There were 22 teams in the competitive bracket and “Safe Sets” took the court in pool play. The competition was fierce. There were volleyballs flying everywhere sets, spikes and blocks and the fans cheering all the time as whistles go off in the gym. Old friends reconnecting you got the sense that some of these ladies have played together or against each other more than once. It was a great feeling to be apart of this gathering of elite indigenous athletes.
Safe Sets left pool play with 5 wins and 1 loss, from here they enter bracket play with double elimination. As a team they racked up 31 kills and 18 aces, they did have a few unforced errors that attributes the one loss in pool play. Sports fans this is where the rubber meets the roads. Safe Sets started off composed and confident. They were in command of the court six packing and acing their next two opponents. It was in their third round when they got sluggish, serving and getting the ball up were the unforced errors that hurt. Now they are in the losers bracket. The fight begins. They came back with two matches that defined this teams competitiveness, 21-16 and 21-9.
In the end Safe Sets won the Bronze Medal in the 13th LPNNG. Arla Duran-Velasquez said, “…everyone contributed reaching out and worked together … travel was a problem.” This team had young ladies from all over the Southwest and California. Along with CiCi’s help they put together a winning combination.