‘We’re just regular people out here’

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Crystal Engle spikes the ball past Katheryn Babcock during the Women's Sand Open finals. Babcock and her partner Erin Gray beat out Engle and her partner Paige Jensen for the championship. Rustin Gudim Aspen Times

ASPEN – Casey Patterson competed in his first of four MotherLode Volleyball Classics when he was a Brigham Young University student. The 30-year-old from Huntington Beach, Calif., vowed he would one day come back to Aspen to win a title – a goal put on hold in recent years while he competed professionally.

August’s news that the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was closing its doors because of lack of funds and an inability to secure investors afforded Patterson the opportunity to return to Aspen to take part in the country’s largest doubles tournament.

He and partner Ty Loomis took full advantage.

The duo breezed through the winner’s bracket, then clinched the men’s open division title with a resounding 21-16, 21-13 victory over 2009 champions Jesse Rambis and John Moran on a pristine Labor Day afternoon at Koch Lumber Park.

“I think it was 2002 when I first came here. I love this tournament,” Patterson said. “I’ve always wanted to win here. Everyone knows about the MotherLode.”

Patterson and Loomis teamed to win an AVP Tour event last season in Coney Island, N.Y. This year they decided to go their separate ways.

But when the AVP folded, Loomis called his friend to gauge his interest in joining forces once more to compete on the Corona Light Wide Open Tour. They soon returned to the sand together.

During a recent tour stop in Breckenridge, they met MotherLode Director Leon Fell and subsequently were invited to Aspen.

“It’s good to come here and get to enjoy the culture and lifestyle of the sport. All of the fans that come and watch us on the AVP Tour are here playing, having fun, drinking a beer,” Loomis said. “We’re just regular people out here.”

Hardly. While they were given the open division’s No. 2 seed, Patterson and Loomis quickly emerged as top contenders.

“They’re so good offensively, and it’s tough to score a point against them,” said Moran, of Redondo Beach, Calif., who, like Rambis, once partnered with Patterson. “They put so much pressure [on opponents].”

After being pushed to three games in their opening match – “We waited like six hours and were anxious to play and were trying to hit balls way too hard,” Patterson said – the duo was rarely challenged en route to securing a spot in Monday’s final.

They kept the momentum going on Koch’s center court.

In Game 1 against Moran and Rambis, son of former L.A. Lakers player and current Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, they shared the lead five times during the game’s first 18 points. Then, Jesse Rambis attempted a kill that sailed long, giving Patterson and Loomis their first lead at 10-9. They scored six of the next eight points – many on emphatic kills.

The boisterous, confident duo sealed a Game 1 win when Loomis drilled a ball through an attempted block; he raised both hands and let out a booming yell that nearly drowned out the large crowd.

“We like to have fun and interact with the crowd, whether it be the ball girls or the hecklers,” Loomis said. “We play with a lot of passion and energy.”

Added Patterson: “We’ve beaten teams that are some of the best in the world. Nobody intimidates us at all.”

Rambis and Moran tried to keep pace in Game 2, but the errors began to mount. During one stretch, the undersized Rambis was blocked twice, then attempted a touch shot over Patterson that sailed a few feet wide.

The miss gave Patterson and Loomis a commanding 18-11 advantage and prompted a timeout.

“I’d like to say we were sluggish, but that wasn’t the reason we lost,” Moran said. “Quite frankly, they were much better than us.

“This is still a huge success. If you told me I’d come to the MotherLode and only lose one match [in two years], I’d take that any day.”

Patterson and Loomis both produced kills from there to seal the win.

“This is one of the traditional tournaments, one that has been around for [38] years. If you win, you’re in the record books forever,” Patterson said. “This feels great.”

Added Loomis: “We’re coming back for sure [next year].”

Babcock, Gray win women’s open title

In her desperate attempt to keep the play alive, Kathryn Babcock lunged to her left and flicked the ball with her wrist; when her shot sailed inches over the net, then clipped the line on the far side of the court, the Grand Rapids, Mich., native shrugged her shoulders and shared a chuckle with teammate Erin Gray of Sugar Grove, Ill.

The duo received nearly all the fortuitous bounces in women’s open final Monday, dominating from the start in a 21-15, 21-14 victory over Californians Paige Jensen and Crystal Engle.

Babcock hit a well-placed touch shot up the line in Game 1, sparking a 8-2 run that gave her and Gray an 18-11 advantage. Jensen, who teamed with Jenelle Koester to win 2009’s MotherLode title – their second straight – and Engle appeared fatigued after completing their semifinal match little more 15 minutes before the final and couldn’t keep pace.

The same was true in Game 2, when Babcock and Gray jumped out to a 14-7 lead. Jensen and Engle could pull no closer than five the rest of the way.

Women’s B, Jamie Hunt (Kansas City, Mo.) and KIathleen Linden (Overland Park, Kan.)

Men’s B, Daniel Duran (Denver ) and Sergio A. Castillo (Denver)

Womens’ BB, Jane Butler (Kansas City, Mo.) Stephanie Wright (Kansas City, Mo.)

Men’s B, Jon Gubera (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Gape Pollard (Los Angeles)

Women’s A, Kelsey Anderson (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Maria Hultquist (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Men’s A, Tyson Wood (Albuquerque, N.M.) and George Martinez (Albuquerque, N.M.)


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.

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