Twice is nice for Swartzendruber |

Twice is nice for Swartzendruber

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Daniel Bayer photo.Glenwood Springs' Krista Swartzendruber, left, goes up for a block against Houston's Julie McGarr during an elimination match Monday in the 31st annual MotherLode Classic at Koch Park. Swartzendruber and teammate Angela Knopf later successfully defended their women's open crown.

For the second consecutive year, local favorites Krista Swartzendruber and Angela Knopf captured the women’s open title in the MotherLode Volleyball Classic.

The victory makes the duo the first back-to-back MotherLode open champions since 1990, when Shawn Hoover and Kim Harsch-Bird did it.

Swartzendruber, a Glenwood Springs High School graduate, and Knopf, from Troutdale, Ore., were the No. 1 seeds in the 30-team women’s open division, a big change from last year when they were seeded dead last.

On Monday, the final day of the 31st annual Classic, the former Colorado State University teammates defeated Wendy Martin of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Mel Karwowski of San Antonio, Texas, 25-19 for the title.

Swartzendruber and Knopf said later they already had a leg up over several other teams that didn’t have as much experience playing together.

“Our communication and ability to read each other gives us an automatic advantage,” Swartzendruber said.

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Martin and Karwowski lost to Swartzendruber and Knopf in the finals, but not without a fight. They clawed their way back from the losers bracket and made the finals a lot closer than the former Lady Rams would have liked.

“They’re a great team, they’re fighters, they’re smart,” Swartzendruber said.

Martin was gunning for her second title of the tournament after winning the women’s masters (35-plus) division with Samantha Meador of Houston on Friday. Martin would eventually face her former partner in the finals of the losers bracket, defeating Meador and Julie McGarr, also of Houston, en route to five straight victories in the elimination bracket and a place in the finals.

In the finals against Swartzendruber and Knopf, Martin and Karwowski won the first match, a best-of-three round, 21-18, and 21-16, to force a second match consisting of one final game to 25. (Since Martin and Karwowski came from the loser’s bracket, they needed to beat Swartzendruber and Knopf twice – in true double-elimination style.)

And in the first final the local ladies came out flat and lost the match, pushing the championship to a so-called “double final” for the title.

Maybe it was all the time the defending champs spent sitting in the shade – they defeated the No. 3 seeded team of Meador and McGarr in the winner’s bracket final early in the afternoon, nearly two hours before they would compete in the finals. Or maybe that’s just the way the play.

“We like to make sure the crowd enjoys the final,” joked Swartzendruber.

Or was she? Swartzendruber and Knopf seemed most dominant in all of their matches when things got close.

They were loose and confident, unconcerned and unfazed. While some teams were driven by emotion – high-fiving and cheering, or throwing sand and cursing after pivotal points – Swartzendruber and Knopf just stayed cool. Even after losing back-to-back games in the first match, there was no yelling or finger pointing.

They were even-keeled, like they’d weathered far worse before.

“We do our best when we’re having fun and playing with each other,” Knopf said. “We were kind of in a little funk, but we moved some things around and made adjustments.”

The duo came out and dominated the final game, setting each other up for one point-winning spike after another. One local fan could be heard yelling, “Hasta la vista, baby!” with each successive spike.

Will there be a three-peat?

“Unless we’re in another tournament,” said Knopf, who’s been trying to convince Swartzendruber to join her on the professional beach volleyball tour.

“But this is a great tournament,” she added.