California duo stops fighting, takes title |

California duo stops fighting, takes title

Jon Maletz
Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

Douglas Krutzikowsky has finally learned the secret to dealing with volleyball partner Jon-Reno St. James.”I completely ignore him,” Krutzikowsky said with a wry smile and a whisper. “If I engage him at all, he feeds on it.”The two from Santa Cruz, Calif., have played together on and off for 13 years, and sometimes butt heads on the sand. During two previous tournaments this summer, Krutzikowsky said it was common for the two to engage in verbal sparring during matches. “It was like we were two captains on one ship,” Krutzikowsky said.Thursday, Krutzikowsky, 46, put his new strategy to use as he and St. James made their run through the men’s seniors 45-and-over division bracket Thursday at Koch Lumber Park. Krutzikowsky remained stoic as the oft-vocal St. James wore his emotions on his sleeve.

The differing personalities meshed perfectly. The two bested Dan LaFontaine and Doug White last years senior division champions to claim the title. Respectively, LaFontaine and White hail from Huntington Beach, Calif., and Manhattan Beach, Calif. My partner did such a good job at the net, forcing the other team to make mistakes, St. James said, who is making his first MotherLode appearance. He sure made my job easier.Krutzikowsky and St. James showcased their experience early as they finished on top in the winners bracket. Their major hurdle came in the second match of the day. After taking the first game in the best-of-three format, the pair led 7-5 until Krutzikowskys passing went awry and they dropped three straight points and eventually the game. They overcome the momentary blunder and advanced. LaFontaine and White, however, battled all day through the losers bracket after dropping their first match of the day. By the time they lined up for the final, the strain of a nearly 12-hour day had visibly taken its toll. I think we played five or six matches. It was enough for old guys like us, said the 47-year-old White, who has competed at the MotherLode for 26 years. But when youre as achy as me, its almost better to keep playing.

Both players, who first paired up at last year’s MotherLode, were exhausted after commencing play at 8:30 a.m. White, wearing two knee braces and a wrap on his right elbow, walked with a noticeable limp. He took his time when reaching down to pick the ball off the sand. LaFontaine abandoned his jump serve early on in the match.”The other teams worked long and hard and really beat themselves up,” St. James said. “We really benefited from their tiredness. when it comes to beach volleyball, it’s all about endurance.” While their energy was fading as fast as the sunlight, LaFontaine and White refused to give in. After they surrendered five straight points to open the match, it looked as if the pair had nothing left. They responded, however, with two points of their own.”No bagel,” White said as he hit a drop ball just beyond the reach of Krutzikowsky. With Krutzikowsky patrolling the net and contesting almost every shot, LaFontaine and White resorted to finesse to keep the game close. Their strategy worked as the two teams exchanged mutliple sideouts. Krutzikowsky and St. James then extended their lead to 8-3 following a few well-placed St. James serves.

“They gave us one hell of a fight,” Krutzikowsky said. “They were warriors on the court. I was never comfortable no matter what the lead was.”Despite a decidedly partisan crowd that urged on LaFontaine and White, St. James delivered an emphatic kill to stretch the lead to 11-4. After three straight points by LaFontaine and White, LaFontaine attempted to kill a ball near the net, but it sailed wide. White followed with a passing shot that narrowly fell outside the line. An ace and a mishit later, and Krutzikowsky and St. James emerged victorious, 15-7.The pair will look to sustain momentum in today’s masters 37-and-over tournament. Despite their occasional scuffles, Krutzikowsky said he was grateful his girlfriend talked him into enlisting St. James as a partner.”He’s the toughest guy over 45 I know,” he added. “There’s not too many people our age doing this.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is