Dot Hill, front, who has kept the Pelham Recreation Department’s volleyball program on the ball for nearly two decades, welcomes players, front row, from left: Rita Ducharme, Denise Nunes, Nicole Beauregard, Cindy Brunelle, plus back row, from left: Carol Ciaccio, Julie Mercer, Jodi Boucher, Susan Fortier and Kathy Marceau., VALLEY DISPATCH/TORY GERMANN

BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff

PELHAM — Dot Hill will celebrate her 70th birthday in two weeks. Monday night she was playing volleyball, a game she has loved for 35 years.

Did I mention that she came to the game this week, despite the fact that she is waiting to pass a kidney stone?

“I have drugs for that if it gets bad. I’m all set,” she proudly announced after playing ball for 90 minutes.

Hill, a retired human resources director, has been running the Pelham Recreation Department’s volleyball program for nearly two decades. This year 20 women, ranging in age from their early 20s to their late 60s, have signed up for the program, which runs from the middle of September to early June. The women play for 90 minutes every Monday night in the gym at Pelham Elementary School.

Off the court they are nurses, hairdressers, moms, law office workers, deli managers and grandmothers. On the court, clad in powder blue T-shirts that read “Women’s Volleyball” on the back, they are teammates, opponents, and fierce competitors out for a night of exercise, fun, and camaraderie.

On this particular night, 10 volleyballers showed up ready to play.

After the first half hour, the laziness of the long holiday weekend was stripped away and they got into a rhythm. The punished ball suddenly found itself in the middle of a couple of intense volleys broken only by a hit too hard that sent the ball out of bounds, or a ball that was tipped and didn’t quite make it over the net.

Soon the “thwack, thwack, thwack” of the ball and the “squeak, squeak” of their Nikes was all that could be heard in the small gym. The focus occasionally snapped by giggling or trash-talking over the net, as the women, playing 5 on 5, did what they could to earn points for their respective teams.

“White girls can jump, Sue,” taunted Rita Ducharme, as Susan Fortier missed a ball that sailed over her head.

“Argh! You son of a . . . whew!” screamed Jodi Boucher a few minutes later, as a ball she thought she had hit out of bounds was saved by Fortier at the last second.

Fortier, 58, of Dracut, a nurse at Fairhaven Nursing Home, has been playing recreational volleyball, along with her sister-in-law Denise Nunes for 22 years, 21 of those years in the Pelham program.

“We started playing in Dracut, but they were really busy and it was hard to get the gym, so we came to Pelham,” said Fortier, the grandmother of four. “It’s really fun. We laugh a lot and it’s a good night out.”

“We even come out in the bad weather,” she admitted.

In contrast to Hill, Fortier and Nunes, this week marked only the second time Hudson’s Julie Mercer, 37, the deli manager at the Nashua Market Basket, has played volleyball.

“I work with Jodi and she kept telling me I had to sign up,” she laughed. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Hill said that there has been a recent trend of more younger women joining in on the fun, which the older ladies encourage.

“There were some years where we were forced to play 3 on 3 because there were so few people signed up, but that has turned around,” Hill said. “The young ones keep us on our toes, and sometime we even play the mothers against the grandmothers.”

Few of the players have the form, technique or height of former professional beach volleyball star Gabrielle Reese, but all of the ladies in Pelham have fun.

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