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Filthy fun is for free clinic

July 23, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN - Cathy James played volleyball in high school, but it's a safe bet she probably never had to hose off after a match.

On Saturday morning, she was doing just that, holding up a muddy shoe as she waited in line for a blast of clean, cold water. She was one of the hundreds of people who took part in the sixth annual Citi MUDD Volleyball tournament, a fundraiser for the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown.

"It was really gross," James, 23, of Columbia, Md., said of playing in the slop. "But it's fun. It's supposed to be good for your skin."

James was one of several players who said the mud limited a player's mobility.

"It's much more luck than skill," she said.

Forty teams participated in the daylong tournament, held behind Citigroup's day care center near Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Robin Roberson, executive director of the Free Clinic, which provides prescription drugs and medical services to those without insurance, said $25,000 was raised last year.

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The clinic's largest fundraiser, the mud volleyball tournament this year attracted four more teams than last year. Roberson did not know Saturday how much was raised this year.

Employees with Callas Contractors dug 1-foot deep pits for eight volleyball nets, with the pits lined with topsoil and filled with water, Roberson said.

While some, such as James, hosed themselves off with water provided by a tanker truck between games, others seemed to wear layers of mud with pride. Lighter-colored mud from earlier games partially was covered with darker, wetter mud from more recent matches.

Since playing with shoes was required - but keeping them from being sucked into the mud was difficult - rolls of duct tape were as common as brown T-shirts.

Just about everyone had duct tape wrapped around their shoes and up their calves to keep their shoes on their feet.

Tubs of fresh water were stationed at each net to keep the volleyballs relatively clean.

Richard Mazzola, 22, was all smiles even as he wondered how he was going to get home without dirtying his car, a Scion he bought about a year ago, but still thinks of as being new. He didn't bring a change of clothes, and was covered from head to foot in mud.

"That's going to be fun," Mazzola said. "I'm going to see if I can commandeer a trash bag or something" to keep his seat clean.

Mazzola said he and fellow members of his team, named Deuce's Dirty Dozen, practiced on sand the night before the mud tournament.

"Sand's a hundred times better. A lot easier to maneuver," said Mazzola, of Waynesboro, Pa.

Not all of the action was limited to the volleyball courts.

Over the course of the day, the main walkway to the nets became, in spots, nearly as muddy as the courts. Some people, including Dawn Messersmith, dove headfirst along the path a la the Slip 'N Slide lawn game.

Messersmith, 29, said she normally doesn't play volleyball, and was wearing two pairs of pants and two shirts with the hope of keeping the mud off her skin.

It worked until she dove on the muddy walking path, she said.

Afterward, holding her dripping arms wide, Messersmith playfully encouraged her 3-year-old niece, Talayla, to hug her. The girl shook her head and ran away, laughing.

"She won't let me pick her up," Messersmith said. "She's a girlie girl."

A medical technician volunteer at the free clinic, Messersmith said she has been playing in the volleyball tournament since its inception, and will play again next year.

"I'm having a blast," she said. "I love it. It's cleansing."

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