Three crowns un’Loded in Day 1 |

Three crowns un’Loded in Day 1

Three champions were crowned yesterday in opening-day action of the 31st annual MotherLode Volleyball Classic in Aspen, leaving 15 more to be decided as the event continues into Monday.

Samantha Meador of Houston and Wendy Martin of St. Petersburg, Fla., were the first 2003 champions. Seeded No. 2 in the 12-team Women’s Masters (35 years plus) field, Meador and Martin cruised to the finals unbeaten to meet No. 3 seeds Linda Hager-Arndt and Kris Bredehoft of the Denver area at the sand courts at Koch Lumber Park.

Teaming up for the first time for the occasion, Meador and Martin, both 35 years old and former rivals on the professional beach tour, escaped a late charge by Hager-Arndt and Bredehoft to win the title 16-14.

“They put on a nice comeback,” said Martin, who won her first ‘Lode title last year in the coed A division.

“We gelled right from the start,” added Meador, “but we nearly cratered toward the end. They stuck with it.”

Meador and Martin, who called the ‘Lode’s Women’s Masters division “the best there is,” will stick around through the weekend as both have entered the Women’s Open division, albeit with different partners.

In the Men’s Senior 50-plus division, Californians Jon Lee and Don Shaw were once again untouchable, winning their third consecutive title.

Lee, an English teacher and coach at San Marcos High School, and Shaw, the head men’s coach at Stanford University (with four national titles with the women’s program), faced their toughest competition in the semifinals. Dennis Dempsey and Chris Savard nearly ousted the Lee-Shaw duo, but Lee and Shaw hung on to win 15-13 for a spot in the finals of the 14-team field.

Humping the long road to the finals via the losers’ bracket, Denver’s Dave Lawless and Ron Smith, the No. 2 seeds behind Lee and Shaw, seemed to be running on empty by the time they reached the title match. And Lee and Shaw made quick work of the Denver pair, winning 15-2.

“We served tough, and they struggled,” Shaw said. “And at this age, coming through the losers’ bracket makes a tough road of it.”

“This was the strongest 50s-plus [division] we’ve ever seen, but I’ll take a final like that any time.”

“It’s always the cammeraderie and the brotherhood that keeps me coming back from California a lot more than winning or losing,” added Lee, who will be the PA announcer throughout the weekend at Koch park. “And it all starts at the top with [MotherLode producer] Leon Fell, who keeps it all going, keeps it like it’s always been.”

In the seven-team Men’s Senior 45-plus division, No. 3 seeds Larry Sutliffe and Brian Richter of Denver outlasted No. 4 seeds Bill Noon of Lawton, Okla., and Joe Gagnon of Santa Barbara, Calif., as darkness encroached Thursday evening.

It was the third match of the day for both teams as Noon and Gagnon forced a double final against Sutliffe and Richter with a 15-7 win in the first final. (All MotherLode brackets are double-elimination, meaning one team advances to the finals unbeaten, the other through the losers’ bracket and must beat the unbeaten team twice for the title.) In the second and final final, Sutliffe and Richter rallied back to win 15-12 and take the crown.

The MotherLode continues Friday with the 36-team Men’s Master’s division at Koch park. Eric Anderson of Los Gatos Calif., and Andrew Cavanaugh of Santa Barbara, Calif., won the 2002 MotherLode Men’s Master, but return this season with different partners.

Anderson will team with Kent Kitchel, who missed last year’s event due to injury. Anderson and Kitchel won five MotherLode Master titles together in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2001, and Kitchel also won two MotherLode Master’s crowns with Mark Tanner in 1992 and 1993. Christian Larson will be Cavanaugh’s partner this season.

Record MotherLode crowds in 2002 saw Colorado State University products Angela Knopf of Troutdale, Ore., and Krista Swartzendruber of Glenwood Springs win the Women’s Open title at the 30th MotherLode Volleyball Classic. And the duo came out of the very last seed to do it.

In the Men’s Open, Skyler Davis of Irving, Texas, and Brian Soldano of Isle of Palms, S.C., captured the 2002 title.

Knopf and Swartzendruber are expected to defend their women’s title while Soldano returns with new partner Dave Smith of Culver City, Calif.

A total of 74 men’s and 27 women’s teams have entered the “opens” this weekend, the two classes that highlight play in the 18-division event. Meanwhile, the Men’s Master’s field has 37 entries, making it the United States’ No. 1 event for players 37 and older.

Seeded No. 26 in the 26-team women’s Open field last year, Knopf and Swartzendruber had to rally twice in the title match to defeat sixth-seeded Natalie Sime and Dawn Tischauser, 18-16. Davis and Soldano finished first among the 67 men’s teams by defeating 33rd-seeded Bryan Gibson of Birmingham, Ala., and Keith Jones of Nashville twice on Labor Day 2002, including a 15-6 win in the title match.

Late registration will be accepted in person and space permitting the day of check-in for the respective divisions, or at the pre-check-in desk in Aspen today at Koch park from 12-6 p.m., or Saturday starting at 8 a.m. The late-registration fee is $80.

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