Former Mexico resident Linda Mongler loves playing volleyball. In her childhood, it was one of only a few sports available for young ladies to play, except for track and basketball, which weren't her forte. Now 57, going after digs, spiking and blocking passes are still her favorite pastime – locally, statewide and nationally.
Earlier this month, her team played in the Franklin County Silver games in Union, and took third. The 5-foot 9 and a half-inch middle blocker has played locally, on the state level and nationally, bringing home several impressive medals. Their circuit includes Union, Jefferson City, St. Louis, St. Charles, Kansas City and even outside the state in Utah and Houston. Her teammates range in age from 50 to 58 and their accolades include gold, silver and bronze medals. Mongler has been playing since age 50.
"Before my senior years, I joined several teams, but found they were a little out of my league. Those young girls were more competitive and way faster than me," Mongler said laughing. "When I found out that I could play with people my own age, I was in Heaven. It's much nicer playing with people my own age."
Over the years, she has played for a lot of city leagues, intramural teams and as a Show-Me State Games contestant. She and another Mexico player Betty Martin have traveled together a lot. Some of the teams they have played with include the "Woo Who's?" and the "Mid-Mo Crazies."
"Some of the teams we play are very serious, and we're definitely not as good as them, but we do play hard," Mongler said. "What keeps me coming back is the camaraderie and the love of the game.
"We call it the girls day out, when we play."
As a middle blocker, Mongler plays front line and gets to hit and block a lot. When she's able to block her competitor's hits, she said "it still gives me goosebumps."
"If I get to touch that ball against one of those 6-foot middle players, it's amazing, and it makes you feel great," Mongler said.
One of her most memorable games was at the Houston Nationals, where they played teams from all over the world.
"This is like a small-scale senior olympics, where we play teams from other countries," Mongler recalled, slightly giggling. "So we got our butts kicked by Japan, by Russia; but we did beat Mexico one year."
Mongler said she hasn't played as much as she would have liked this year, and admits, she might have to slow down "just a little." Though she would love to try out for the Olympics senior team, she admits her local team might not be ready, just yet. Two to three tourneys a year may be enough for them, she said.
Page 2 of 2 - "The Olympics is way beyond what we are. That's where the B level, BB, A and AA teams are. We're the low B," Mongler said with a slight giggle. "Or what you might call backyard players that worked their way to exceptional."
While Mongler knows she's not getting any younger, she said she still feels she's "a force to be reckoned with." Asked when she plans to hang up her knee pads she said, "We're still athletes who are not ready to sit down and just knit our life away. We're active and want to stay as healthy as we can.
"My goal is to enjoy life, garden, go fishing with my husband, and stay physically active, playing volleyball as long as I can."
Mongler is married to Centralia native Carl Mongler Jr. and they have one adult son, Carl Mongler III, who resides in Mexico with his wife.