Thrilling finals wrap up 2015 MotherLode
The Aspen Times
Long after his second consecutive stuff block provided the winning margin in the Men’s Open final Monday afternoon at the 2015 MotherLode Volleyball Classic, Ryan Ammerman stood — all alone — in the center of the sandy court at Koch Lumber Park.
A giant towel was draped over his head, covering his angular 6-9 frame.
Tears streamed down his face.
For the former setter on the U.S. national indoor volleyball team, for the former youngster who has been coming to the Aspen MotherLode since he was 10, Monday’s championship provided an emotional and historic cap to Ryan Ammerman’s volleyball career.
Ammerman, who grew up in the Denver suburb of Parker, teamed with Santa Barbara’s Will Montgomery to win the 2015 MotherLode Open title in a three-set thriller over the California duo of John Moran and Adam Cabbage 21-13, 17-21, 15-13.
And the match was every bit as close as the score.
After dropping the first set, Moran and Cabbage rallied in a sun-shower at Koch Lumber Park, winning the second set from start to finish. A series of dynamic kills from Moran and two more from Cabbage closed the second set and forced a deciding game to 15 points.
Cabbage and Moran led early in the final game. But a series of saving digs were converted into points by Ammerman and Montgomery.
The foursome traded the final-set lead, and the game was tied six times — the last at 13-13 on a spike from Montgomery off a silky-smooth set from Ammerman, who was forced to step away for the U.S. national team for health reasons.
But after a weekend playing sand doubles volleyball for the first time all summer, Ammerman stepped up with two, textbook-style stuff blocks to win the third set 15-13.
“Will Montgomery was the best player in the tournament,” Ammerman said. “I give 100 percent of the credit for this weekend to Will.”
Ammerman said he “struggled” early in the tournament after playing the indoor game exclusively for the last several years.
“Early in the tournament, I wasn’t very good. He was able to carry me in the early rounds,” Ammerman said. “I got better and better as the tournament went along. He was coaching me the whole way through, giving me pointers.”
The volleyball reunion, which could mark Ammerman’s final big tournament, was particularly special because Ammerman and Montgomery were college teammates at the University of California-Irvine.
“He was a senior when I was a freshman,” said Montgomery, a regular touring pro on the AVP circuit. “When I came to college, he kind of took me under his wing. We’ve been good friends ever since.”
The two haven’t had many opportunities to play together.
But when Ammerman was forced away from the U.S. team for medical reasons, he joined his former college buddy for one last sand tournament in Aspen.
“This was a special tournament for us to get back together,” Montgomery said, adding that Ammerman showed his incredible range as a player with his improvement over three days playing in the sand in Aspen.
“He was so frustrated with himself (early), especially on the blocking,” Montgomery said. “I kept telling him we just need the block when it matters.”
Like at 13-13 in a third set.
“Those blocks were a testament to how good of a player he is,” Montgomery said. “The real deal was making it happen at 13-all here in front of a big crowd with everything on the line.”
Block. Block. 15-13. Set. Match.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 10,” said Ammerman, who grew up in a volleyball family. “I’ve been playing here since I was 16. I love coming up here.”
Ryan Ammerman smiled again, tears raining down his face.
The Women’s Open final at the Aspen MotherLode featured a Colorado duo against a pair of Brazilians.
In the end, Raquel Ferreira and partner Vivian Cunha prevailed over Colorado’s Angela Knopf and Mallory Deneen.
Knopf is from Fort Collins; Deneen lives in Denver after her college career at Florida Atlantic University.
The Brazilians, with a dynamic all-around game, rolled to a 21-12 win in the opening set. With Ferreira’s lightning-quick lefty swing, they won the second set 21-16.
1. Matt Friesen (Denver, CO)/Matt Deming (Loveland, CO)
1. Luis Bejorano (Denver, CO)/iSAAC gARCIA (Denver, CO)
1. Andrew Kirk (Las Vegas, NV)/Mark Dellota (Las Vegas, NV)
1. Leah Burgstahler (Denver, CO)/Gabrille Curtis (Arvada, CO)
1. Nehelani Ader (Albuquerque, NM)/Shelby Martinez (Albuquerque, NM)
1. Ebony Hardy (Las Vegas, NV)/Julie Delzeit (Las Vegas, NV)
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The canceled 2020 race would have been the fourth running of the Colorado Classic, which each year has included stages in Colorado’s mountain towns before finishing with a final stage in the heart of downtown Denver. Snowmass had been scheduled to host a stage last summer for the first time.