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Goss family legacy lives on

Tim Mutrie
Rock Goss of Aspen shows off the trophy his father and uncle won in the first annual MotherLode Volleyball Classic in 1973. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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The Stanley Cup it is not.The trophy from the first annual MotherLode Volleyball Classic has about as much heft as an empty Coke can and the engraving was done by hand – a seemingly unsteady hand at that. It’s cracked on the bottom and though it still holds liquid, one must drink quickly, its keeper noted with a chuckle.”It’s pretty humble; no, very humble,” said Aspen’s Rock Goss as he showed off the relic yesterday afternoon at the Koch Lumber Park, headquarters of the 32nd annual tournament this weekend.Goss’ dad, Chester, and uncle, Stephen, won the inaugural MotherLode in 1973, back when the tourney featured just 14 teams. Today, the event has 18 divisions and some 700 teams playing on 80 courts.

Throughout it all, a Goss family member has competed in the elite men’s open division. Yes, for all 32 years. First it was brothers Chester and Steve, then Chester’s sons, Chester Jr., Chris and Rock, all of whom live in Aspen.Rock, 30, will carry on the family legacy this weekend when the men’s open division action opens Saturday on the sand. While his dad’s 1973 trophy seems to have been lost to posterity, Uncle Steve unearthed his original cup and brought it to Aspen when he was visiting last week from his native South Mission Beach, Calif.”He thought it belonged up here with us,” said Rock, who is playing with partner Ugis “Juice” Kanders, a native of Latvia who lives in Aspen.The 2004 tourney marks Rock’s 10th MotherLode; his best finish was ninth.

Since 1973, no local resident has won the men’s open. (Glenwood Springs’ Krista Swartzendrubber enters as the two-time women’s open defending champ.) “The legacy went from pressure to win it, to more of just playing the best volleyball possible,” said Rock.”There’s always a chance we could pull some huge upset, but our chances are not that good. But that’s not why we’re playing. We’re playing to play the best volleyball we can and have fun.”Yesterday, during day one of the five-day event, men’s seniors and women’s masters division action filled the sand courts at Koch Park and Willoughby Park (see related story, page A15). Chester Sr., a member of the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame, was spotted hopping off his bike and climbing to a bleacher seat to catch some of opening-day action.

“It may have been just a barbecue-style tournament that first year,” said Rock, “but Dad and Steve had to beat a couple of really good players from California, like Ron Von Hagen, who was the winningest open play until Karch Kiraly came along.”Now, it’s always a very strong field with all the California transplants coming up from Denver and Boulder, and basically top players from all over the country.”Reflecting again on the simple trophy from 1973, Rock offered this:”It’s just a small cup, but they also got some dinner and a little money. It really is small, though, but it’s cool to have.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com


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