MotherLode field could be best ever |

MotherLode field could be best ever

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pro beach volleyball’s loss could wind up being Aspen’s gain.

On Aug. 14, the AVP Tour announced it was spiking the remainder of its 2010 season because of a lack of funds and an inability to secure investors. Consequently, players have been left scrambling to secure spots at various tournaments across the country – some are even competing overseas.

Leon Fell, event organizer for the MotherLode Volleyball Classic, which returns to Aspen this weekend, said he has been inundated with inquiries of late. He even received an e-mail from Phil Dalhausser, who teamed with Todd Rogers to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“This is sad for beach volleyball at the moment, but a boon for us,” Fell said recently. “We’ve had players say they always wanted to come and play here. Now they’re saying ‘I can, so I am.’

“It puts Aspen on the map. No longer are we just a sidestep.”

To accommodate the increased requests, Fell said the men’s and women’s open fields have been expanded from a total of 96 teams to 100. Last year’s tournament drew a total of 523 teams from 36 states and British Columbia. The MotherLode is the country’s largest pro-am beach volleyball tournament.

Further heightening the excitement in advance of the event’s 38th year, some of volleyball’s top up-and-comers – those who have won various qualifiers all across the country – will be invited to come the valley to test their mettle against the pros.

This weekend’s action promises to be as competitive as ever, Fell said.

“In years past we’ve had the top names come in, but once you get past those names the level of talent dropped considerably,” he added. “Now, that’s not going to happen. It’s going to be one of the scariest draws we’ve ever had. … Every match is going to be a knock-down, drag-out affair.”

At last year’s tournament, Californians Jesse Rambis (son of former L.A. Lakers player and current Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis) and John Moran capped off a perfect Labor Day weekend with a 21-17, 21-16 open championship-match victory over Dane Jensen and Evan Engle.

The duo’s road to the title was hardly smooth; they staved off elimination in their first match with a 15-13, third-game victory.

On the women’s side, Paige Davis (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) and Jenelle Koester (Redondo Beach, Calif.) repeated as women’s champions with a tight victory over fellow Californians Christina Hinds and Crystal Morrison. The two games were decided by a total of just four points.

Both open winners are slated to return to defend their crowns and vie for $10,000.

The action kicks off Thursday with the men’s seniors and women’s masters divisions at Koch Lumber Park and concludes Monday with championships in eight different classifications.

“It’s going to be a special weekend,” Fell said. “It’ll put us at the forefront of the beach volleyball consciousness.”

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