ORANGE — Stop by the gym at the Taylor Education Administration Complex on a Monday night, and you’ll see more than 50 women of all ages playing volleyball. Some of the players are 18- and 19-year-olds new to the league; others are old-timers who’ve been serving, setting and spiking every week, October through March, for 30 or 40 years.
Mary Sue Arbogast founded the league 41 years ago. When she retired from her role as organizer a couple of years ago, fellow players Melanie Lacy and Lynnie Wells stepped in as co-commissioners.
Last Monday, on a chilly, rainy evening, Lacy and Wells collected the $4 game fee from players as they came streaming inside the Boys & Girls Club entrance at TEAC. The women exchanged friendly greetings and then headed into the gym while peeling off hats and jackets.
There are eight teams in the league, enough to fill up four courts every week. Paid referees monitor the games and keep score. The league is open to women who are high school graduates or older, and ages range from 18 to 60s and 70s.
Generally, a volleyball team has six players on the floor. But Lacy said teams in the Orange league must have at least four players and some have as many as 10.
Although Lacy downplayed the level of competition, which she compared to “backyard volleyball,” last Monday’s action looked a couple of notches above that. There were nice setups, decisive spikes and some dramatic points that went on for a while. There also were plenty of smiles and occasional laughter, but the players were focused and into each point.
“This league’s intention from the beginning was to let women come out and get exercise and fellow-ship and be together,” said Lacy, who has played in multiple volleyball leagues and founded the women’s league in Madison.
She likes the idea of spending time with women of a wide age range and believes it’s an important way to build community. Lacy said the Orange players “remember and reminisce about past seasons” and appreciate the opportunity to get together as much as they enjoy playing volleyball.
She and other league members are proud of the nursing scholarship they have awarded every year since 2007. All proceeds beyond administrative costs go toward the Patricia Francis Nursing Scholarship, awarded each spring to an Orange County High School graduate. Arbogast founded the scholarship in memory of her friend, Francis.
The 2019 scholarship winner, Marlee Dodson, is now a nursing student at Germanna Community College — and a new member of the volleyball league. Before heading into the gym, she pronounced it a “fun” way to spend an evening.
Her mother, Beth Dodson, has been a member of the league since she was 20.
“We do this for fun and to get out of the house,” she said with a smile.
Irene Richardson of Gordonsville is a longtime player who has been involved with the league pretty much since its inception. She said she loves the combination of the sport and the socializing.
Her friend Louise Workman, a former Orange resident who lives “on the edge of Louisa,” also has been playing in the league since its beginning.
“I love playing. It’s a lot of fun — a good night out for the ladies,” she said, noting that in its early days, the league met at Orange Elementary School.
Workman was happy to report that two years ago, her team won the regular season, the league’s Christmas tournament and the season-ending tournament. Getting a team to gel that successfully is not easy, she said.
Speaking of the league in general, she said, “It’s a night to come out and have fun and not get upset if you don’t win.”
However, victory is awfully sweet when it happens, as Workman noted: “We like to have a good time — but we like to win if we can.”