Meador and Jones take long road to third title | AspenTimes.com

Meador and Jones take long road to third title

Nate Peterson

Mark Fox/The Aspen TimesKeith Jones, left, and Mike Daniel battle at the net during the Mens Masters division final Saturday at the 33rd MotherLode Volleyball Classic at Koch Lumber Park.

Top-seeded Randy Meador and Keith Jones found themselves in a familiar position Saturday at Koch Lumber Park, winning their third Master’s crown at the MotherLode over third-seeded Mike Daniel and Joe Samuelu, 15-12, 7-1.The path back to the final was anything but familiar.In 2003 and 2004, Meador and Jones chewed up the 32-team Master’s (37 and older) bracket, going undefeated to win back-to-back titles. That was not the case this year after the duo’s 13-game win streak was snapped Friday following a 15-11 loss to fourth-seeded Kjell Nilssen and Tate Walthall. From there, Meador and Jones had to fight their way through the single-elimination loser’s bracket. The pair won three straight matches, including a rematch against Nilssen and Walthall in the semifinal, to keep the possibility of a three-peat alive.

Since Samuelu and Daniel had advanced to the final undefeated, all they had to do was win the first game and the crown was theirs. Meador and Jones rallied back from a 6-4 deficit, however, to reel off nine straight points and win, 15-12 – a victory that forced a sudden-death game to seven for the title. That game was never close, as Jones continued to foil Samuelu’s blocks with well-placed drops and Meador played staunch defense. With sideout scoring, an early 4-0 lead did not assure victory for Jones and Meador, but the duo never backed down, fighting through a string of sideouts to earn the final three points in the 7-1 win.The duo was already envisioning a four-peat only minutes after they walked off the court together.”Hopefully we’ll do it again next year,” said the 45-year-old Jones, who hails from Hendersonville, Tenn. “Until we get a little older and we go into another division, we expect to repeat.””We plan on winning it until we can’t do it any more,” added Meador, a Houston native.

Daniel and Samuelu, who hail from Bountiful, Utah, and Pleasant Grove, Utah, respectively, agreed they were a little off Saturday morning after being in a rhythm Friday.”We played very, very well yesterday. We weren’t playing at our peak level this morning,” Daniel, 37, said. “I had a little trouble siding out. They were also hitting a little bit more extreme angles than anyone else we’ve seen in the tournament. Just little bit more consistent, and a little bit more solid team than we’ve seen.”Daniel also admitted that playing old-school sideout beach rules on a bigger court was something he was still getting accustomed to, even during Saturday’s final. The Open divisions in the MotherLode play by the new AVP beach rules, which include smaller courts and nets, lets on serves, and rally scoring.And, since Daniel only turned 37 on Thursday, making him eligible for the Master’s division – and its antiquated rules – for the first time, he admitted that Meador and Jones did have a bit of an advantage.

” The court was a big factor, because we’ve been playing on the AVP court for the past two years,” Daniel said. “It felt like we were serving into the ocean. You couldn’t miss.”As an old vet of the beach game, Jones said, he prefers the old sideout rules – and the discipline it takes to win in a sideout match – as opposed to the new beach rules.”It’s grueling. It’s tough. It takes forever to get there,” he said. “It brings back the mental toughness of the game. In rally, you only have to earn one or two points, then you win the whole game because you know there’s only going to be so many serves. It’s not the same. Like [AVP beach legend] Karch [Kiraly], the reason he won so many tournaments is because he’s mentally tough. He would just sideout all day. Now it’s easier. You don’t have to be in as good of shape.”Samuelu said second-place was still a great result.”We’re pleased,” he said. “We played well. My partner picked up a lot of my misses from my blocks and I tried to give him a good block.

The 32-team Women’s Open began play on Saturday, with top-seeded Leanne Haarbaugh and Abbey Georgy losing their first match, 21-25, to unseeded Linn Ahrendt and Carrie Jacobson.The Men’s Open division also began play Saturday. This year’s Open features 65 mens teams, headlined by the top-seeded duo of Chris Hannemann and Kjell Nilssen. Hannemann won the Open last year with a different partner, Dana Camacho. Nate Peterson can be reached at npeterson@aspentimes.com.