King of the Mountain kicks off in Vail
VAIL, Colorado – There are 29 divisions being contested during this weekend’s King of the Mountain Volleyball Tournament, but it may be time for a 30th – U-7 throw-kick volleyball.
On a postcard-perfect day, volleyball players of all levels descended on the Vail Athletic Field for Day 1 of the tourney, but few seemed more content than a trio of tykes on one of the grass courts.
Mercury Powers, 6, and her teammate Landon Keathley, 4, mightily hurled a volleyball over the net to a waiting Cruz Camena, 2. After a few bounces and retrieval of the ball, Cruz, actually 2 1/2, which is important when you’re that age, proceeded to kick the volleyball back underneath the net. And thus, this new form of the sport continued quite merrily until it was time for a snack.
Five titles were won on Day 1 of the 37th annual King of the Mountain Volleyball Tournament, including another for Rocky Basille and Chris McFarlin in the men’s senior (45 and older) division.
“It seems quite impossible that someone as stellar and as good-looking as my partner, who is soon about to win five tiles in a row, is a senior,” McFarlin said. “I’m thinking barely-old guys. We’re not really old, but we’re barely old. We’re the new generation of 45 and older. Forty-five is the new 35.”
Make that five titles for Basille (Lakewood) in the men’s seniors, er, barely-old guys division and No. 2 for McFarlin (Denver). Since he’s already created a new division Friday with the new name, look for McFarlin to do a riff on the father-daughter tournament Sunday. He and Brianna Williams of Rochester, Minn., will be competing in the father-daughter tourney as an uncle-niece combo.
The promise of a nice weekend in the mountains brought a lot of teams up to compete, and the weather did not disappoint.
“We love being in Vail. What a day,” said McFarlin, who says it’s been raining often down on the Front Range. “By far, it is the best day of the year in the mountains.”
“It’s nice getting up in the mountains with all the people here to talk to and play with,” Grand Junction’s Matthew Lovato said. “It’s Vail, ski town. It’s a heck of an experience.”
Lovato and his sister, Gabrielle, were competing in the co-ed BB tournament on the grass. They’ve been playing beach or two-person volleyball for a combined 11 years. Gabrielle, who is no stranger to playing in Eagle County, having graduated from Delta High School, and now an outside hitter for Mesa State going into her senior year, loves the doubles format.
“It has helped me tremendously,” Gabrielle said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve made it into college. For me, it helped me see the court better, to pay attention where everyone else was on the court. It just opened my eyes. I think doubles makes you a better all-around player, not just a better hitter or a better passer.”
Communication is vital in doubles and one would think that a brother-sister pair would have that down pat.
“I think it can help and hinder at the same time,” Matthew Lovato said with a bit of a laugh.
Over at the sand courts, the site of the men’s masters, talking was the talk.
“Communication is the big key,” Lance Brink of Parker said.
“We grunt a lot,” teammate Bill Shuster of Broomfield added.
Brink and Shuster were playing as the Team Doughboy, complete with T-shirts portraying the Pilsbury icon.
“We’re the two biggest guys out here weight-wise. I’m not the biggest height-wise,” Brink joked.
Presiding over the competition were Harley Shubart and James Duncan acting in the key role of scorekeepers for one of the matches on the sand.
“Since we had zero calls, it was very critical,” Shubart said. “Great seats and you know what the score is.”
As for the scoreboard, which must be turned around every seven points as teams switch sides, Duncan came prepared.
“You’ve got to be in the flow, in the zone, go smoothly,” he said. “You’ve got to put it over and swing it around. It’s like a little dance. It takes a few hours of practice everyday.”
The King of the Mountain continues today at the Vail Athletic Field and Ford Park with multiple divisions from men’s and women’s open to juniors starting play.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
King of the Mountain, Day 1
1. Karen Klemm, Aurora, and Nanci Lee, Denver
2. Carol Mackey, Castle Rock, Heidi Bradey, Castle Rock
Men’s seniors (Barely-old guys)
1. Rocky Basille, Lakewood, and Chris McFarlin, Lakewood
2. Chris Stroup, Denver, Dave Gottschalk, Denver
1. Carey Jones, Denver, Mike Miller, Denver
2. Brian Kennedy, Denver, and Renny Werner, Westminster
1. Jeff Oldham, Fort Collins, and Shannon Grey, Fort Collins
2. Matthew Lovato, Grand Junction, Gabrielle Lovato, Grand Junction
1. Michael Robles, Denver, Erin Deffenbaugh, Denver
2. Mike Doucette, Denver, Summer Mrotek, Denver
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.