Volleyball event honors Ellen Toy, gathers area’s best seniors

Saturday, December 10, 2022 | 9:40 PM

Saturday’s inaugural We Serve First girls volleyball classic was a success in a number of ways, and the event could become a staple of the local sports scene.

A total of 36 seniors from area high schools filled four rosters for Saturday’s festivities before a large crowd at Kiski Area High School.

Adding spice to the event was a unique format where four coaches selected from among the available participants, mainly girls from other schools.

“Having 36 kids come automatically drives up the turnout,” said organizer Tim Toy, head of the We Serve First Foundation. “You have parents, grandparents and younger siblings, we’ve had tremendous support from the communities. I don’t have a (crowd) count, I wish I did. But the gym looks three-quarters full.”

The foundation honors Toy’s late wife, Ellen, long-time coach and educator in the area.

Said Toy: “My right-hand man, Jim Joyce, came to me and said we need to duplicate something like the (basketball) Cager Classic for volleyball. We checked here at Kiski for gym availability and with athletic director (John) Peterman, and he suggested bringing at least two girls from every school. I liked Jim’s idea, and I couldn’t wait to bring it to life.”

Friday night, coaches Tom Phillips (Freeport), Meghan Lucas (Butler), Eve Hrebank (Leechburg) and Rachel Carter (Franklin Regional) picked their teams while the girls were enjoying post-practice pizza.

“We decided to implement a system much like you’d see in a Fantasy Football draft,” Toy said. “You had to pick a middle hitter, one outside hitter, a libero, a defensive specialist and then pick a second outside and middle hitters and setters.”

The four teams played a three-match round-robin to get the day started. They were then seeded in one-set semifinals, and the Blue team coached by Phillips, faced the Orange team led by Hrebank in a best-of-three for the title.

The Blue team won in straight sets 15-11 and 15-10.

Armstrong outside hitter Cassidy Adams was selected MVP of the event.

“It was a lot of fun, and it’s going to such a great cause, which makes it a lot better,” Adams said. “I enjoyed playing with a bunch of girls that I had played against. It was amazing.”

Adams, who took up the sport in seventh grade, is undecided on a college but would like to major in nursing and eventually become a nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology.

The day also featured two all-state players — Freeport’s Cassidy Dell and Lauren Atwell of Mars.

Captains were Burrell’s Avery Bain for the Orange team, Madison Friess of Deer Lakes for the Purple team, Atwell for the Gold team and Dell for the Blue team.

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