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Kiski Area teammates, coach say goodbye to sledding accident victim Prusia

| Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Kiski Area junior Alex Seaholm, 16, of Apollo, a volleyball teammate of Jenna Prusia, 16, of Washington Township who died in a Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, sledding accident, writes a message on volleyball that coach Ellen Toy provided for the team to sign on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, at the Vaia Funeral Home in Delmont. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Detail of the volleyballs with messages from Kiski Area teammates of Jenna Prusia, 16, of Washington Township who died in a sledding accident, photographed on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, at the Vaia Funeral Home in Delmont. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Rachel Frye met Jenna Prusia when both were seventh-graders playing the flute in the Kiski Area Intermediate School band.

By the time they reached 11th grade this year, they had become best friends. Frye said that whenever she was down, Prusia rallied her spirits.

“She would always say: ‘It's OK to cry, but you need to put a smile on your face. You need to be happy because it's going to be OK,'” Frye recalled. The advice carries special meaning now for Frye and the rest of Prusia's friends.

Jenna Prusia, 16, of Washington Township died Friday while sledding with her identical twin sister, Ashton, in Bell Township. Prusia suffered head injuries when the sled they were riding struck a tree on private property along McCreary Road. She died about two hours later in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office.

Frye described her friend as “beautiful, loving.”

“She was so into her church, she was so spiritual,” Frye said. “I don't think I have ever seen her sad. Her smile just lit up the room.”

Frye and girls volleyball coach Ellen Toy said Prusia played was the team's libero, a defensive specialist whose primary mission is to keep the ball from hitting the floor and giving the other team a point. That often involves diving onto the floor.

“She had bruises like crazy,” Frye said. “I couldn't play like she did. She'd always get them on her elbows and her elbows would look like tennis balls when she was done.”

The libero is not part of volleyball's rotation from one spot to another and wears a different colored shirt to signify the position.

“It is a privilege to wear the libero shirt,” Toy said, “and it was a privilege for us to have her wear that shirt and prove that she was worthy of that position.”

“She was the ideal player/athlete in that no matter what you put out there for her to do, she would do it at 150 percent and would never complain,” she said. “She loved being on the court. She would do anything we asked her to do.'”

Toy said Prusia, a member of Cornerstone Ministries in Export and its youth ministry, had a strong faith that she exhibited in her involvement with numerous organizations through the church and school. She credited Prusia's family for instilling strong values in her.

“They are just a very respected family and it has been a pleasure to have them in our program,” Toy said. “It is just so good to see families like that ”

The Kiski Area girls volleyball team has had to face difficult times including Toy being diagnosed with cancer and losing assistant coach Jaime Vick Moran to cancer in August. Toy said the girls, who gathered together on Sunday to pay their respects as a team, are close knit. She said they stayed together, stayed strong and got through those times and hopes they can do the same now.

“The death of a classmate, this is a whole different level of emotional involvement that they are going to have to deal with,” Toy said. “This is going to be difficult.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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