House, Card take women’s MotherLode volleyball title; Dalanhese, Budinger crowned men’s open champions

Denver’s Liz Card went full-on stalker to find her most recent playing partner, New Mexico’s Cassie House. Card first saw House play at the King of the Mountain volleyball tournament in Vail last year and instantly knew she wanted House on her side.

“I remember Facebook messaging her and just saying, ‘Hi there, I’d like to play with you.’ And I was an idiot and didn’t follow up on that, and I didn’t actually get to see her until the first sand tournament of this year,” Card said, referring to the Beach Bash Doubles tournament in Denver in May. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh, my good god, that young girl is going to be something, like a spectacle.’ And she is. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s a spectacle, for sure.”

Card, 32, was finally able to partner with House, 22, for the first time this weekend at the 45th annual MotherLode Volleyball Classic in Aspen. The duo overcame early struggles to beat Denver’s Nola Basey and Frisco’s Aurora Santos in the women’s open final Monday at Koch Lumber Park.

“This is the first tournament I’ve won — the first tournament I’ve taken finals in. And to win the Aspen MotherLode is incredible,” said Card, who is a sports massage therapist on the Front Range. “For this to be my first win, it just makes my heart sing. It’s just incredible.”

House recently finished a four-year career playing indoor volleyball for the University of New Mexico, the final two years of which she also played for the school’s recently launched beach volleyball team. She plans to play beach volleyball for Texas Christian University in the spring as a graduate transfer.

“We vibed really well on the court. Her energy matched my energy very well. It was a lot of fun to play with her, which made competing next to each other super easy,” House said of Card. “Liz and I talked about after a bad play just letting it go. That was our game plan to get back into it — just work a little bit harder.”

Basey and Santos controlled the first half of the final. They won the first game 21-17 and held the advantage most of the way through the second game in the best-of-three finals. But House and Card fought back, forcing the game into extra serves before pulling out a 24-22 nail-biter.

They took an early lead in the final game and held on to win, 15-9.

“The problem was my rock, Cassie, started getting a bloody nose. So I knew she was getting dehydrated. She is not used to elevation. I could just see the blood streaming down her face,” Card said of their early difficulties. “I wasn’t actually too concerned because I know she treats this as a job. For her, she is going to push through anything. She is a very tough cookie.”

In the amateur finals on Monday, Meghann Torchia and Justine Olsen won the women’s B final; Alison Joens and Laura Ten-Eyck the women’s BB final; and Addie Petersen and Katie Luescher the women’s A final.

Utah duo rolls to win in men’s open final

Duncan Budinger, a 33-year-old computer programmer living in Utah, probably doesn’t get to compare himself to a living basketball legend too often, but finally winning the men’s open final at the MotherLode Volleyball Classic in Aspen gave him that chance.

“It’s like I finally got over that hump,” Budinger said. “It’s probably like LeBron James and his first championship. So it’s going to be sweet that my name is finally on the little pole over there.”

Budinger had been close to winning MotherLode numerous times. Just last year he lost in the finals alongside teammate Mike Nelson to Piotr Marciniak and Skylar del Sol. But this weekend, alongside new teammate Daniel Dalanhese, someone he’s beaten in this same tournament before, he finally got to taste victory.

Budinger and Dalanhese were in control most of the way, winning 21-19 and 21-16 on Monday over Wisconsin native Bill Kolinske and California’s Miles Evans to take home the MotherLode’s top prize.

“We are just grateful that we had some lucky Ws today and we were playing well,” Dalanhese said. “It’s good to be with him.”

Dalanhese, 32, was born in Brazil but grew up in Utah, where he still lives. He is close to graduating from dental school. Dalanhese and Budinger only started playing together this year, getting up at 6 a.m. most days to train before going to work.

The energetic duo even had enough remaining after their finale to play a quick two-point game against members of the Aspen High School volleyball team, who were in attendance.

“As one of my friends says, grow the game,” Budinger said. “You help the little people and get them excited about volleyball so they want to continue playing.”

Budinger and Dalanhese defeated the AHS girls, though narrowly.

“I’m a huge extrovert, so the fans, whether they are rooting for me or against me, I get all my energy from that,” Dalanhese said. “So I just go around and say thanks to everybody, regardless of who they are rooting for.”

In the amateur finals, Julio and Diego Aguirre, of Rifle, won the men’s B final; John McLemore and Kevin Kwon won the men’s BB final; and Bob Hall and Mike Smolinski won the men’s A final. Hall and Smolinski also set a MotherLode record by winning a single game by a score of 38-36. The format is first to 21, win by two.


Professional dancers return to Aspen to perform in ‘The Nutcracker’

Roaring Fork Valley natives Emily Ridings and Nikki Ferry have come full circle when it comes to dance. Both studied dance with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) as kids, continued their training with other prominent schools, and now return this weekend, as ASFB presents “The Nutcracker” at Aspen District Theater.

See more