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Volleyball rivals unite on and off court for special cause

| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
The Times Express
The Plum and Gateway varsity and junior varsity girls volleyball teams came together on Sept. 20, 2012, to raise money for the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter of the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Michael Love | The Times Express

The Gateway and Plum varsity and junior varsity volleyball teams met at Gateway High School's Furrie Sports Complex last Thursday for a Section 4-AAA matchup.

While the goal for each team was to come out victorious on the court, there also was a higher mission at work.

The Mustangs and Ga- tors came together to do their part in raising money for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society in its mission to finding a cure.

Lee Ann Benvenuto, one of the leading organizers of the “Dig Green” event at the volleyball games, said so many people are affected, either suffering from Lymphoma themselves or experiencing a friend or family member go through it.

Her son, Anthony, a sophomore at Gateway High School, was diagnosed with Lymphoma at age 10.

Nicole Benvenuto, An- thony's sister, is a senior on the Gators volleyball team.

“(Nicole) gave up so much when (Anthony) was sick,” Lee Ann said. “They are so close. This is an important night for her.”

“It really means a lot for everyone to show their support,” Nicole said.

Lee Ann said so many people have come together to make the Dig Green event possible.

“The Monroeville community has donated many things, and the Plum Mustangs have been collecting money for several weeks,” she said. “The community being here, wearing green and supporting this event is great to see. Several large donations (were) made (last Thursday) in honor of the team and the goals we have.”

Benvenuto said $517 was collected at last Thursday's Dig Green event.

“With my son being diagnosed, I have taken a personal interest, and a lot of teams at Gateway have been very supportive in changing some of their events to Green Out nights. We will continue to raise money. We are just trying to make a difference to help find a cure.”

Gateway girls volleyball booster president Kelly Parks said donations still will be collected at the remaining home games.

The Gators host Woodland Hills on Oct. 4 and Oakland Catholic on Oct. 9.

The match with Oakland Catholic also is senior night, and Gators seniors Allie Briley, Brandy Parks, Maria Taylor, Nicole Benvenuto and Kayla Aiello will be honored in a ceremony prior to the match.

As far as the match between Plum and Gateway was concerned, the Mustangs won, 25-18, 25-15 and 25-17. The Gators fell to 2-3 in section play with the loss.

“We were honored they had us on the schedule for this game and were excited to be able to raise funds,” Plum head coach Kory Flaherty said. “It gave the match a little extra-special flavor.”

“The (Plum and Gateway) girls are very close to each other,” Gateway head coach Jay Wu said.

“A lot of them play club ball together. To have them come together for an event like this is great.”

Nicole Benvenuto said that because the game on Oct. 4 (against Woodland Hills), the team will not be able to be at the Light the Night Walk at Heinz Field. But, she said, she and her teammates never will stop fighting to help find a cure.

For more information about the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society or how to make a donation, visit the organization's web site at www.lls.org or email Maureen Durkin, Light the Night Director for the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter, at maureen.durkin@lls.org.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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