Kiski Area volleyball coach resigns amid stomach cancer battle
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Ellen Toy coached her last volleyball game for the foreseeable future Saturday, and she did so from her couch. But it wasn't because she was tired.
Toy, who is battling stomach cancer, is resigning after six years as Kiski Area's girls volleyball coach. Before she takes her hiatus from coaching, the still energetic Toy was asked to serve as Team USA Women's Volleyball's honorary coach for its FIVB World Grand Prix match against Serbia, in Belgrade.
“My husband (Tim) is very active on Twitter, and he was reaching out to a lot of people and telling them our story and spread the word about ‘Jam the Gym,' ” said Toy, who is battling the disease for the second time. “One of the people he talked to was (Team USA member and former Penn State star) Alisha Glass.”
“Jam the Gym” is a fundraiser started to help raise money for Toy and former assistant coach Jaime Vick Moran, when both were stricken with cancer in 2010. Vick Moran died last August from an infection she obtained following a bone marrow transplant during her third bout with leukemia. Toy was re-diagnosed in April and had her stomach removed.
Toy said Glass was touched by her story and decided she wanted to do something to honor the ill coach. So, Glass and fellow teammate and Penn State alumnus Christa Harmotto decided Toy should be the honorary coach for their biggest match of the year.
“Christa came to ‘Jam the Gym' last year, so she knew a lot about us already,” Toy said. Toy “coached” from home, using Twitter to send messages of support to players almost 5,000 miles away.
“It wasn't like I was doing anything to tell them anything,” she said. “I was just kind of talking to people in the Twitter world.”
Toy said she was trying to coach young volleyball players as much as she was trying to inspire Team USA.
“I made a comment about how mastering the float-serve is an important point of the game,” she said. “I went to practice today, and at the end one of our coaches mentioned how one of the girls was practicing her float-serve.
“It's those little things that make the difference for kids. It's the whole inspiration behind it. It was about inspiring them and giving them a different reason to work harder.”
The U.S. beat No. 1-ranked Serbia, 3-2, giving Toy — who just completed her fifth round of chemotherapy — a “win” in her final game before assistant coach Maggie Jones takes over the Cavaliers. Toy said she plans to return but didn't set a timetable.
“If I'm capable of doing it, I'll know when it's right,” she said. “If it's not right, I'll know that too. I recovered very well after my first round of surgery. I know that I have some work to do. Time will tell.”
Toy's former player, Maddie Antone, said Toy was her inspiration for playing volleyball.
“She lives a block away from me in Vandergrift,” Antone said. “I grew up around her. When I first got to middle school, I didn't play volleyball at all. She told me I should start. She got me into being a three-sport player.”
Antone said Toy was her favorite coach.
“I learned a lot, not only to be a good volleyball player, but how to be a great person. She doesn't teach just to win volleyball, she teaches to have mature young ladies.
“It's a touching situation,” she added. “I've known her all my life. She has had a real big impact on me, not only athletically, but growing up.”
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ford City volleyball team earns share of 1st section title by beating Greensburg Salem, 3-0
- Leechburg girls volleyball chasing history
- Quaker Valley girls volleyball faces postseason warmup
- Ford City volleyball clinches first place in section