3rd annual ‘Pack the Park’ game to open volleyball season with celebration of the sport

Sunday, July 16, 2023 | 12:16 PM

Dakoda Fickes knows all about the feel of playing an outdoor volleyball match on a grass court.

The new head coach of the Kiski Area girls volleyball team also is involved with a sports recreation business that puts together and runs outdoor grass tournaments.

So there is no doubt he is pumped up to begin his first season with the Cavaliers with the third annual Pack the Park outdoor volleyball game between Kiski Area and Norwin on Aug. 29 at the Ellen Toy Grass Court at Kennedy Park in Vandergrift.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of the event,” Fickes said. “Tim Toy does a great job of running it each year. It’s going to be a really fun evening, and I hope we have a big crowd.”

Pack the Park helps raise funds each year for the We Serve First Foundation, started with the help of Tim Toy to honor the memory and legacy of his late wife, Ellen Toy, who coached volleyball for many years at Kiski Area and other schools in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

“It is such a special night and a really nice celebration of the game,” Toy said. “Having a game outdoors might bring more people to the match who might not otherwise come. My hope is that it gets people excited about the team and volleyball where they choose to attend more matches.”

Mother Nature wasn’t kind to many grass surfaces in the region last month with a string of rain-free, warm and sunny days.

Toy said the grass at Ellen Court bent but didn’t break as it bounced back and flourished with a number of recent soaking rains.

“That part of the park is usually pretty grassy and pretty lush,” Toy said. “It’s worked out in that way really well.”

Soaking rain scuttled the plans for last year’s outdoor game between Kiski Area and Norwin.

The teams were preparing to play outside, but a forecast of rain came true, and it chased the teams inside to Kiski Area High School for the match. The Cavaliers won by a 3-2 score.

Toy said he was grateful to all involved, including Norwin’s coaches and players and Kiski Area athletic director John Peterman, who worked quickly and diligently in moving the game from outside to the gym at the high school.

This year’s Pack the Park will be somewhat of a rubber match between the teams as Norwin won the inaugural event in 2021 at Ellen Court by a 3-1 score.

The outdoor matchup between Kiski Area and Norwin also will be the day before more than 85,000 fans pack the football stadium at the University of Nebraska for an outdoor volleyball doubleheader.

“There is no better place to have something like that than Nebraska. They are absolutely nuts for volleyball out there,” Toy said.

Toy experienced the volleyball atmosphere in Nebraska first hand last December as he was awarded the American Volleyball Coaches Association Courage Award for his work with the We Serve First Foundation at the AVCA Volleyball Convention in Omaha.

The convention ran concurrently with the NCAA Division I championships, and Toy was on hand to watch the Pitt women’s team battle in the national semifinals.

“We made a lot of friends out in that region,” Toy said. “It was a lot of fun, too, because we had a lot of the Pitt people following us.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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