Kiski Area, Norwin volleyball teams ‘fired up’ to play in special outdoor event

Sunday, September 12, 2021 | 5:33 PM

The Kiski Area and Norwin girls volleyball teams are set to meet Monday, but not in the usual gymnasium setting.

The nonsection matchup will be outside on the grass court at Kennedy Park in Vandergrift. The “Pack the Park” event celebrates the impact volleyball has on the area communities and also will serve to honor the memory of Ellen Toy, the court’s namesake and longtime area teacher and coach.

“I think it is going to be a really special evening, not only for the girls but for everyone who knew Ellen and her dedication to so many things,” Kiski Area coach Jodie McCartney said.

The event is co-sponsored by the We Serve First Foundation and co-creator Tim Toy, Ellen’s widower.

Ellen Toy died of stomach cancer in 2016 at 54.

A graduate of Kiski Area and the University of Pittsburgh, she taught in the Leechburg School District for more than two decades and also is remembered for her extensive coaching tenure, which included time at Kiski Area and Plum.

The outdoor grass court was completed and dedicated in July.

“When Tim and I first had our conversation about potentially playing a real match out there, I said I would talk to my AD (John Peterman) and see what he thinks,” McCartney said.

“We still had some points left in the season. We thought about a couple of teams. I asked, ‘What if we could get Norwin here?’ I felt that it would be so fitting to have them come up.”

Norwin coach Mary Ellen Ferragonio was a longtime coaching colleague and friend of Ellen Toy.

“I wondered what the chances were that they even had an opening and if they would be willing to play on grass because it is a little bit of a different environment when we are heavy into the section,” McCartney said.

Conversations and planning led to reality, and the evening of volleyball is set.

“I feel it is coming full circle for (Ellen),” McCartney said. “When someone passes and there is a court dedication and you can have an event like this, you want it to be a meaningful experience all the way around.”

The JV match will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the varsity match to follow.

Tim Toy said the teams will wear special uniforms to commemorate the match.

Food trucks will be available, and extra bleachers will surround the court for spectators to enjoy the match. Lighting also will be present if needed.

About a month ago, Kiski Area and Leechburg met at the court and had a combined workout session.

“A lot of people showed up just to watch,” Toy said. “That was pretty cool. I talked with Jodie and thought that with the way things are going with covid and the way these kids have had a year and a half where they weren’t able to do the things they normally do, we thought it was a really good idea to give this a try and make (the match with Norwin) a special day for them. It is a little bit of an outdoor volleyball party.”

Kiski Area is 1-0 this season with a 3-2 victory over Greensburg Salem in Section 1-AAA play Sept. 7. The Cavaliers also won the Silver Championship at the Butler Tournament on Sept. 4.

Norwin is off to a 1-1 start in Section 3-AAA. After a 3-1 loss to Latrobe, the Knights bounced back with a 3-0 victory over Connellsville.

“When we found out that Norwin had a space in their schedule, it just made complete sense,” Toy said. “Norwin was all in from the start. They are fired up and ready to go, just like the Kiski girls are. It should be a very competitive, fun match. Mary Ellen always brings a very good team. I saw Kiski play on Tuesday. They had a tough five-set match, but they didn’t crack.”

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

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