Powderkeg explodes today at Howelsen

200 teams expected for annual doubles volleyball tournament

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Former pro volleyball player Reed Stephenson spent Tuesday evening trying to regain his edge in the sand at Howelsen Hill.

"It's the first time we've shown up all summer," the longtime Steamboat volleyball player said. "I was trying to knock the rust off my game. I guess I will know how successful I was (today)."

Stephenson and partner Paul Cook, will be among the Steamboat players competing in this weekend's Powderkeg Doubles Volleyball Tournament.

The event will open with the 30-team dinosaur division at 9 a.m. today. In the dinosaur division, the combined age of the two players must be at least 70.

Organizer Anita Esser, who works for The Island, the Denver volleyball club that runs the tournament, said there would be 200 teams in town on Saturday when the other divisions open play at Howelsen Hill.

The tournament will be played in the outfields of the softball diamonds with the marquee men's open division playing on the sand courts.

"We will be playing in the dino division," Stephenson said. "I gave up the open division a long time ago. This is only one day and it's a lot less demanding."

Stephenson played volleyball at the amateur level in California for seven years after he graduated from the University of Colorado in the mid-1980s. He also spent three years at the professional level before giving up the elite ranks and moving to Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat's annual volleyball tournament was one of the reasons Stephenson decided to move to Steamboat after retiring. He had won the tournament in the past and the town left an impression on him.

"I knew I wanted to move back to Colorado, and Steamboat was one of my top choices," Stephenson said.

After moving back, he continued to play in the open division of the tournament, winning it several times. Five years ago, he dropped into the dinosaur division and has won it four times.

"It's great for guys like me," Stephenson said. "It's a lot more laid back and it's just a lot of fun. The guys who are playing in this division left their egos behind a long time ago. We don't get upset about whether the ball was in or out. We just want to play the game."

While today's events are about having fun, Stephenson said this tournament is one of the top five events in the state.

It's part of the Colorado Pro Volleyball Association's tour and is expected to draw some of the state's top players. Stephenson said Colorado, Texas, Florida and the Chicago area lead the country when it comes to amateur volleyball.

However, he admits that California is still in a class by itself. "If you want to get better, that's where you go," Stephen-son said.

"They are just at another level out there."

Esser said she expects this weekend's tournament to be one of the best in Colorado this year. Teams will play in the open, A, AA,B and BB divisions.

The coed teams will play Sunday.

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