MotherLode gets U.S. title designation |

MotherLode gets U.S. title designation

The MotherLode Volleyball Classic, an Aspen Labor Day tradition since 1972, has long been regarded as the sport’s de facto national championships.

Now, for the 32nd annual edition on Sept. 2-6, the MotherLode will be the official U.S. national championships for all 12 of its grass-court divisions.

MotherLode officials reached an agreement with USA Volleyball this week that will make the event’s amatuer-division winners – from four men’s, four women’s and four coed brackets – the national champions.

The men’s and women’s open divisions, and the other four divisions played on sand, including men’s and women’s masters divisions, are not included in the national title picture, however.

“It’s a huge coup for the event, a real feather in our cap,” said Leon Fell, a former MotherLode competitor and the event’s producer since 1981. “We have been the largest and most comprehensive beach volleyball tournament in the country for a long time, but this puts the final icing on the cake to be recognized like that. Obviously, we’re happy to finally align ourselves with the best organizations and players in the nation.”

The validation comes at a time when the MotherLode is also being recognized as a pioneering event in other mediums. A one-hour special on Fox Sports News, “Volleyball Country,” will showcase the 2003 MotherLode as well as the U.S. Women’s National Team and the Paralympic Sitting Team. The program is scheduled to debut regionally May 29.

Additionally, the MotherLode is being featured in the third volume of Art Couvillon’s comprehensive history of beach volleyball, “Sands of Time: The History of Beach Volleyball,” according to Fell. The first two volumes, charting the sport back to its invention in 1985, are already in bookstores; the final volume is scheduled to come out in July.

“The MotherLode has firmly rooted itself in the sport,” Fell said, “but all of a sudden we’re getting a hailstorm of publicity. It’s great for the event and for Aspen.”

In conjunction with the sanctioning agreement with USA Volleyball, the MotherLode has also aligned itself with numerous volleyball tours, tournaments and associations across the country, including: the Toyota Pro Beach Tour of the East Coast, the East End Volleyball Association of New York, the Jersey Shore Volleyball Association, Florida’s Budweiser Beach Volleyball Tour, the Midwest Volleyball Professionals, the Gulf Coast Volleyball Association of Texas, the Santa Barbara Beach Masters, and other regional USA Volleyball groups.

Winners from those associations will now receive automatic seeding in the MotherLode, which should further the MotherLode’s image, numbers and level of competition, Fell said.

Typically, the MotherLode attracts upward of 700 teams, with teams playing on approximately 80 courts in and around Aspen over the four-day event. With the new alliances, however, Fell expects a record turnout this year.

“With all that’s happening this year, I think we have a very good shot of blowing up that 700 figure,” he said. “It should translate into the 2004 MotherLode becoming truly the toughest beach volleyball tournament in the country, outside the AVP pro beach tour.”

However, Fell stressed that little about the MotherLode will actually change. That was the cornerstone to any agreements with other groups like USA Volleyball, he said.

“We have been working on this national championship concept for over three years, and one of the stumbling blocks has been our absolute adherence to the concept that the MotherLode remains an open event and a spirited community event,” Fell said.

“In other words, we have not given in. … We’re not changing anything. It’s still going to be one of the largest free events in Aspen, and it’s still going to be a fun, social event for spectators and players.”

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