Volleyball fans dig Aspen scene, scenery | AspenTimes.com

Volleyball fans dig Aspen scene, scenery

Naomi Havlen

Mark Fox/The Aspen TimesFans watch MotherLode volleyball action Saturday at Koch Lumber Park. The tournament continues through Monday.

For a front-row seat to the spikes, dives and the occasional direct hit to the face, the action this weekend is at Rio Grande and Koch Lumber parks.This is the MotherLode Volleyball Classic’s 33rd annual tournament in Aspen, and 750 two-person teams are registered to compete this weekend. The games are entertaining even just to casual observers walking by the parks on their ways to other Labor Day weekend activities in this mountain town, but the true volleyball aficionados are right on the sidelines.They hail from all across the United States (last year 29 states were represented, and they didn’t yet have an accurate count for this year as of Saturday afternoon). Several players have international backgrounds, from Samoa, Columbia and Poland. It’s the biggest ever in terms of both participants and possibly spectator crowds, said Kent Fonda, a spokesperson for the tournament.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve seen in the last five years at Koch Park,” he said.Cindy Brun from Des Moines, Iowa, stood on the sidelines with a camera watching friends (in a team referred to as “Angela Squared” for their identical names) compete at Rio Grande Park on Saturday afternoon.”We come up a couple of days early and enjoy the hiking,” she said. “I enjoy watching, and if I get tired there are other things to do.”

Brun has attended the tournament a few times – last year’s cold temperatures and rain made for a memorable but somewhat miserable experience, she said.Shannon Gilmore and Cassie Zahn traveled to Aspen with a group from Dallas to play in the competition together.”Besides the altitude and trying to breathe, it’s great up here,” Gilmore joked, while raving about the scenery. She and Zahn play at tournaments all over Texas and admired the mountainous vistas from Rio Grande Park.

“It’s a social event,” Zahn said. “We’ve met lots of other people from other states and we’re enjoying the fresh air with no pollution.”Becky Vossberg and Rachel Gullerud came to Aspen for the first time from Rochester, Minn., where they frequently participate in pick-up games and an open recreation league. They play in tournaments throughout the Midwest and were convinced to visit Aspen by other Minnesotans who had played in the MotherLode before.”We don’t play in many tournaments with this much scenery,” Vossberg said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com