Local comes home to roost at MotherLode
Aspen Times Staff Writer
In the 30-year history of the MotherLode Volleyball Classic, no valley woman ever stood atop the podium in the elite Open division.
In fact, until yesterday, only one “local” had managed to capture an Open crown, and that was indeed 30 years ago when Aspen resident Chester Goss imported brother Steve from their native South Mission Beach, Calif., to win the inaugural event in 1973 (when there wasn’t even a women’s division).
Glenwood Springs native Krista Swartzendruber changed all that Monday. Playing with former Colorado State University teammate Angela Knopf of Troutville, Ore., the No. 26-seeded team in the field of 26 won six straight matches, including two Monday, to claim the Open title in their first-ever MotherLode appearance.
“Beyond exciting, it’s phenomenal,” Knopf said.
“It’s kinda euphoric actually,” added Swartzendruber, a 1997 Glenwood Springs High School graduate who now lives in Thornton.
In the women’s final, Knopf, 22, and Swartzendruber, 23, outlasted the No. 6-seeded team of Natalie Sime and Dawn Tischauser of Denver 18-16. Twice Knopf and Swartzendruber rallied from a deficit before pulling ahead 17-16 in the first-to-15, win-by-two format. And with Swartzendruber serving on the team’s eighth match point, it was Knopf who blocked a kill shot back over the net for the final point.
The victory marked Swartzendruber and Knopf’s second win in as many tries this summer, together or otherwise. Last weekend, the duo won a tournament in Colorado Springs.
“We weren’t even on the bracket Friday night,” Knopf said with a laugh. “We weren’t even seeded, but we came ready to have fun and play some ball, and things turned out pretty good.”
“The final was tough,” Swartzendruber added. “They’re a great team and they gave us a good run.”
“Our goal is to be the team out there having the most fun. Not matter what, you’ll always find us smiling,” the Glenwood native continued, “and today, maybe a little bit more so.”
Catie Vagneur-Fleisher, an Aspen High product who played with Knopf and Swartzendruber at CSU, narrowly missed an opportunity to meet her former teammates in the final. Partnered with Kelly Rowe of Los Angeles, Vagneur-Fleisher’s third MotherLode appearance was halted at fourth place by the Sime-Tischauser team. Meanwhile, Julie McGarr and Samantha Meador of Houston finished third.
In the Men’s Open division, the No. 2-seeded team of Skyler Dale Davis of Irving, Texas, and Brian Soldano of New Jersey went undefeated on the weekend to cruise to their first MotherLode crown in the field of 67 teams.
Davis, a four-time MotherLode competitor, and Soldano, a MotherLode rookie, defeated the No. 33-seeded team of Bryan Gibson (Birmingham, Ala.) and Keith Jones (Nashville, Tenn.) twice on Monday. Davis and Soldano scored a comfortable 15-6 win over Gibson and Jones for the championship after beating the pair earlier in the winner’s-bracket final.
“Not everything went our way, but we made our own breaks,” said Soldano, 25, a professional beach player of the AVP tour. “Dale and I are getting to be more of a veteran team, whereas when we were rookies we made the dumb rookie mistakes.
“Now we’re not doing that anymore, and the other teams make those mistakes against us. We’re just a consistent team, but there was a time when we got beat down just like a lot of teams here, so it feels good.”
Rob Baily of Annandale, Va., and Jason Robertson of Reston, Va., finished third after falling to Gibson and Jones in the loser’s-bracket finals.
While the two Open divisions were being decided Monday afternoon on the Koch Lumber Yard sand, seven other titles were decided in the morning on the Wagner Park grass. Other champions include Brad Collins of Orem, Utah, and Dave Merrill of Draper, Utah, in Men’s AA; Kevin Kelliher of Monterey, Calif., and Scott Ruston of Santa Monica, Calif., in Men’s A; Dallas’ Travis Burris and Steve Schaedig in Men’s BB; Keith Abkes of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Chris Oquendo of Coraville, Iowa, in Men’s B; Novelett Jensen of Blaine, Minn., and Alana Kiehn of St. Paul, Minn., in Women’s A; Jill Parker and Lisa Reitsma of Lincoln, Neb., in Women’s BB; and Victoria Bierly and Adah Burke of Albuquerque, N.M., in Women’s B.
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