MotherLode Classic to serve up its 30th year |

MotherLode Classic to serve up its 30th year

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The center of the volleyball universe is, and will always be, Southern California. Rarely does the focus or the folk ever cross east of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Owing to circumstance and 30 years of tradition, Labor Day weekend is one of those rare occasions ? the legions of tall and tanned bodies in some form of swim wear are coming to Aspen for the 30th installment of the MotherLode Volleyball Classic.

Not only is the MotherLode the largest beach volleyball tourney in the country, Volleyball Magazine called it 2001’s No. 1 beach pro-am tourney in the nation. A pilgrimage of sorts for volleyball fanatics everywhere, the MotherLode also attracts top tour professionals, former Olympians and Olympians to be.

Some 700 teams of two will be competing in 17 divisions on 73 sand and grass courts on just about every available piece of real estate in and around Aspen.

The action opens this morning with the men’s seniors and women’s masters divisions. Play pretty much continues during daylight hours through Monday afternoon, culminating with the finals of the men’s and women’s open divisions. (See tournament schedule on page A26.)

“What we’ve worked hard to do is create an event that has that feel of that first year’s barbecue ? the camaraderie of the players, that free feel of the ?70s,” said Leon Fell, producer of the MotherLode since 1981.

That “first year’s barbecue,” a 14-team tourney held in 1972 at Wagner Park and won by brothers Chester and Stephen Goss, still remains free for fans, and free of the huge bleachers and jumbotrons that overwhelm other volleyball events of the MotherLode’s caliber.

“We don’t have a VIP players’ tent. Heck, we don’t even have a VIP tent,” said Fell. “The No. 1 player in the country has to fight for a seat next to the lowest-ranked B player. Everyone’s equal on the court and off.”

The defending champions in both men’s senior divisions will return to defend their titles. Jon Lee (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Don Shaw (Menlo Park, Calif.) won the men’s 50-plus division, while Jon Hastings (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Andy Shroeder (Concord, Calif.) captured the men’s 45 title last season.

The men’s and women’s open divisions feature some of America’s pro beach players, including former champions Dane Hansen and Ryan Post (men, 1999) and Valinda Hilleary and Pat Keller (women, 1993, 1997, 1999). Hansen and Post are back to improve on their second-place finish to Canyon Ceman and Adam Jewell last September, while Hilleary and Keller are competing with different partners this year.

Other MotherLode winners include Curtis Griffin (men 1995, 1996, 1997 with Erik Moore) and Pat Powers (men, 1992 with Matt Perry, 1990 with Pono Ma’a). Griffin is playing with Kyle Schultz this year, while Powers is teamed with Doug White. A member of the 1984 U.S. gold-medal indoor Olympic team, Powers has also won both domestic and international pro beach titles.

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