Norwin, Kiski Area girls volleyball teams gather outdoors for unique matchup

Monday, September 13, 2021 | 10:15 PM

Picture-perfect weather conditions greeted a large crowd, as well as both the Kiski Area and Norwin girls volleyball teams, for a special outdoor match at Kennedy Park in Vandergrift on Monday evening.

The Pack the Park Volleyball Classic at the recently completed Ellen Toy Grass Court, or “The E” as it has been nicknamed, was a nonsection matchup between the Cavaliers and the Knights that also celebrated area volleyball and honored the memory of the late high school coach and teacher.

Norwin (2-1) defeated Kiski Area (1-1) by a 3-1 score.

“The girls kept saying, ‘We’re having so much fun,” Kiski Area coach Jodie McCartney said. “Our community is great, and Norwin coming out made it really special. To all be here together and celebrate the game of volleyball in a special place, it meant so much more tonight than the win or the loss. It was about being in front of our fans and being a part of something so special. To have this court in memory of Ellen, it really was a great night.”

The event was 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 the age of 54.

“This was more than I expected,” an emotional Tim Toy said while taking stock of the evening after the conclusion of the match.

“You have this idea, and you throw it out there to the world. Guys like (Kiski Area athletic director) John Peterman and so many others take it on and say, ‘We can do this!’ All of a sudden, it turns into this big event with lots of people and great volleyball. We were fortunate to have some great weather. Now, there is a template set for an event like this, and we know what we need and what we need to do. I foresee us doing this again, and maybe many times.”

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

Monday’s match saw the Knights take the first two games, 25-20, 25-18. The first game ended on a block from Knights senior hitter Chloe Lukondi, and a kill from fellow senior hitter Carley DiPaolo completed the second game.

The Cavaliers rallied to take Game 3, 25-12, and closed out the victory with a kill from sophomore Isabella Ondish.

But Norwin wouldn’t be denied the match win and finished it with a 25-22 win in Game 4 as DiPaolo delivered another kill for the deciding point.

“This was a really fun experience,” DiPaolo said. “It was a little out of our comfort zones, but we realized what we needed to do to adapt. It was a really good win against a good Kiski Area team.”

The match wasn’t on the original schedules for either team, but coaches, school officials and others collaborated on a way to make it happen.

“There’s always been a connection between Norwin and Kiski Area volleyball,” said Mary Ellen Ferragonio, a former coaching colleague and longtime friend of the Toys. “It was an honor to be able to come here and play. I think it’s something the kids on both teams will remember for a long time.”

Kiski Area senior and co-captain Carlee Kuhn echoed Ferragonio’s sentiments.

“It was really cool to have the community come out and support this match, and it was right in town,” Kuhn said. “It was just a great atmosphere for a volleyball match. Tonight didn’t matter about who won or lost. We were just having a lot of fun.”

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

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