Some relationships are too good to end.
So when Reed Stephenson moved from sunny California to Steamboat Springs to pursue life after professional volleyball, Paul Cook came along.
Cook's story ends like many that come to Steamboat for a winter. He stayed for the summer, and the two resumed their partnership in the annual Steamboat Doubles volleyball tournament to form a nearly unbeatable duo in the Master's division, also known as the Dinosaur division.
That was five years ago, and with ease Stephenson and Cook won five-straight matches Friday to take their fifth-straight title as a team. It was Cook's sixth in the Dinosaur Division.
The requirement to compete in the Dinosaur division is that the combined age of the team must be at least 70. Stephenson and Cook are a combined 77 years old, one of the more "veteran" teams in the tournament.
Age has turned Stephenson's and Cook's hair grayer and forced them out of multiday tournaments, but each possesses a lot of talent and power that proved too tough for anyone to overcome Friday.
Denver's Claire Dunning and Harley Shubart had two cracks at the defending champions. The first ended 15-1. The second was in the championship. It ended 15-8.
"Those guys are great players," Shubart said. "Reed was kicking my butt 15 years ago."
Stephenson and Cook met 10 years ago in California where the former actually learned how to play sand volleyball. Cook, a California man, grew up in the game. And when Stephenson left the professional tour, he moved here and called up Cook to come help him build a house.
Friday, they sat under a tent, protected from the sun, leaving the shade only for games. Until the final, no team scored more than four points against the Steamboat Springs men.
Dunning and Shubart mixed a couple aces with some opportunistic deep shots to score their points, but for the most part Stephenson and Cook were in control.
Cook said the ball control he and Stephenson had Friday was the difference. Both were able to serve, pass, set and spike consistently for side outs and points.
"We've played together so long," Cook said. "We know what the other is going to do."
But the two didn't necessarily play all that much to warm-up for the title defense.
"We played on Tuesday," Stephenson said. "That was the first time we've played since last summer. We play golf."
Stephenson had little time to enjoy his victory. As owner of the Riverbend Roadhouse, he had to make a quick exit to head to work for a Friday evening.
It was worth asking how the pair thought they could do in the open draw, which begins today. Stephenson figured he and Cook would fare well in the pool play, but the body would be stiff and uncooperative in Sunday's single elimination round.
The Steamboat Doubles tournament, formerly known as the Powderkeg Tournament, resumes today with registration about 8 a.m. and games at 9 a.m.
Every men's and women's division, except for the men's open, will be played on the grass outfields of the four softball diamonds at Howelsen Park. The men's open division will be contested on the two sand courts near the tennis courts.
Coed teams will play Sunday.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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