Local Vagneur falls short against former CSU teammate | AspenTimes.com

Local Vagneur falls short against former CSU teammate

Nate Peterson

Angela Knopf, right, spikes one past Aspenite Catie Vagneur for a point during the MotherLode Volleyball Classic championship match Monday evening at Koch Lumber Park. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Ah, the MotherLode – the volleyball tournament Aspen local Catie Vagneur so desperately wants to win, yet can’t seem to conquer.For the first time in five tries, Vagneur found herself in the women’s open final Monday at the annual Labor Day classic. It was an unfamiliar position in such a familiar setting.And she would face off against a familiar foe: former CSU teammate Angela Knopf, who was playing in her fifth MotherLode final in five years.Knopf’s experience definitely showed, as she and partner Carrie Wright edged out Vagneur and partner Kelly Rowe, 21-19, in the first game, then rolled to the title in the second with a 21-16 win.Knopf won back-to-back women’s open titles in 2002 and 2003 with Krista Swartzendruber, a Glenwood Springs native. She then lost in the finals the last two years, first with Swartzendruber, then with friend Leilani Kamahoahoa.To win the final again after a two-year drought felt like old times, Knopf said.”I’ve just been so blessed to have great teammates,” she said. “It feels great to win, especially now that I have the opportunity to win with Carrie.”Vagneur said it felt good to be in the final, but it would have felt a lot better to win.The home crowd was definitely behind her and Rowe, who were at a disadvantage in the height department against Kopf and Wright, both tall, powerful hitters.In the first game, Rowe and Vagneur kept it close with good ball placement on offense and scrappy defense. Vagneur’s well-placed serves also kept Knopf and Wright off balance at points.From 13 apiece, both teams went back and forth until again being tied at 19. Rowe hit long on a tap shot, however, and on the following point, Wood delivered the win with a huge blast that Rowe couldn’t return.The second game wasn’t so close. Both teams had a number of unforced hitting errors, but Knopf and Wright were more in synch, jumping out to a 15-11 lead. Vagneur and Rowe got as close as being down, 19-16, before Knopf and Wright closed out the match. Knopf split Vagneur and Rowe with a blast, followed by another Wright hit that Rowe hit up into the net before the ball hit the ground.”We knew if we would have pulled out that first game, we could have let that second game go and hopefully get to game three, but we didn’t quite pull it out,” Vagneur said.Knopf, who now lives in Los Angeles with Wright, said it felt good to win, although she noted that it was tough to take the title against her close friend, who was playing in front of big crowd of family and friends.”Katie is a phenomenal player,” she said. “She’s been on the beach for a while and she’s a great teammate. It was hard to play against someone who you felt you were like sisters with.”Knopf also added that a height advantage isn’t everything in beach volleyball – a point that was proven in the men’s open final shortly after when 5-foot-9 Dana Camacho won his third title.”Katie puts up a great block and Kelly runs down everything on defense,” she said. “Yeah, we’re a little tall, but sometimes that’s to our disadvantage. We’re not as scrappy and we don’t dig as well as Kelly, but we did a good job of strategizing.” Vagneur, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., where she coaches high school volleyball, said the appearance in the final only makes her hungrier to get back to Aspen for another shot at the open title.”I will definitely be back,” she said. “Hopefully it will be more of a regular occurrence. This year it worked out really well.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com