Powerful Denver duo wins Women’s Open | AspenTimes.com

Powerful Denver duo wins Women’s Open

Tim Mutrie
Gina Kirstein hugs her partner Nicki Fusco after the two claimed the woman's open division crown of the 2004 MotherLode Volleyball Classic at Koch Lumber Park Monday afternoon September 6, 2004. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Denverites Nicki Fusco and Gina Kirstein knocked off the two-time defending champs in the morning, then captured their first-ever MotherLode title in the evening.Undefeated, Fusco and Kirstein powered through the 35-team Women’s Open division on the sand courts at Koch Lumber Park to claim the $1,600 first prize Monday. The duo beat Glenwood Springs hometown favorite Krista Swartzendruber and partner Angela Knopf early yesterday, sending the 2002 and ’03 champions to a tie for fifth place, then overcame Denver’s Dawn Tischauser and San Diego’s Diane Pascua 21-17, 21-18 in the finals.Combining heavy-handed offense with deft passing and defense, the duo dictated terms all weekend.”We’re power,” said Fusco. “I shoot when I have to, but a crowd pleaser is a hit – a real big bang – and I love to do that. Love it.

“This is my first year on sand. Ever, ever! Isn’t that sweet?” added the 26-year-old, who played at Utah State and Metro State in Denver.Former Colorado State teammates Swartzendruber and Knopf, now of Denver and Fort Collins, respectively, saw their bid for a three-peat unravel against friends Fusco and Kirstein.”They work hard, they get everything up and they don’t make it easy for you,” said Swartzendruber, who attended Glenwood Springs High School. “And we just made more mistakes than they did.”Sure, it’s disappointing, but it’s extra motivation to work that much harder. And you gotta give credit to other teams because they had a phenomenal turnout,” Swartzendruber added.

Albuquerque’s Ingrid Rooslid and Denver’s Tia Self finished third, and Aspen native Catie Vagneur of Los Angeles and Kelly Rowe of Kinston, N.C., took fourth.For first-year partners Fusco and Kirstein, the victory was somewhat bittersweet. Today Kirstein, 28, plans to move to North Carolina.”We played in some Olympic qualifiers – got to play [Athens bronze medalists] Holly McPeak and Elaine Young, which was very cool – and we love playing together,” said Fusco. “She’s my best friend, so it kind of sucks.”And their toughest MotherLode opponents?

“Krista and Angela,” Fusco said. “They’re just, whoa, great. Very consistent players.”Meanwhile, Fusco’s recent and rapid rise in beach volleyball – she entered her first two-person tournament two years ago in a MotherLode grass division – may mean a move of her own sometime soon.”My plans are going to California,” she said, “trying to make it on the [pro] tour.”The two, however, say they’ll be back, and together, when the 33rd annual MotherLode returns next Labor Day weekend.