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Mars volleyball event raises money for cancer research

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Dyed pink foods are offered at the concession stand during the Mars versus Knoch game on Oct. 7, 2013 at Mars Area High School. The pink food was part of the Mars Volleyball Teams' Project Pink Planet, which raises money for breast cancer research.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Gina Nicassio sells raffle tickets during the Mars volleyball game on Oct. 7, 2013 at Mars Area High School. The volleyball team was raising money for breast cancer research as part of their Project Pink Planet.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Mars varsity volleyball players wear pink socks and shoe laces as part of their Project Planet Pink, which raises money for breast cancer research, during their game against Knoch on Oct. 7, 2013 at Mars Area High School.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Pink pasta salad is served as part of the concession stand on Oct. 7, 2013 at Mars Area High School during the Mars versus Knoch volleyball game. The Mars volleyball team raised money for breast cancer research as part of their Project Pink Planet.

The Mars girls volleyball team wanted to give back.

After receiving support from the community year after year, the Planets and their boosters returned the favor Monday night with their first Project Pink Planet event, held in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Mars' colors are blue and gold, but the squad turned its match against Knoch into a pink-themed outing. The Planets wore special pink shirts, and both teams wore pink bows, socks, shoelaces and armbands. In addition, the boosters sold event shirts, and pink-themed concessions were available — anything from pink pasta salad to hot pink iced cupcakes and pink soft pretzels.

The response was overwhelming. The Mars chorus, clad in pink shirts, sang the national anthem. The school's varsity cheerleaders, decked out in pink shirts and hair bows, pumped up the large crowd with pink pom poms.

All told, with concession stand and shirt sales, raffles and donations, the event raised $911 for the fight against cancer. The Mars volleyball boosters will present that check to the American Cancer Society.

“What a privilege (it is) to raise money for such a worthy cause,” Mars coach Tami Caraway said. “This has been in the planning since June. The boosters and the girls have been very motivated to see this happen. They put a lot into doing this and getting as many people involved. I think they saw the importance beyond just playing volleyball. They love playing volleyball, so why not do something good for somebody at the same time?

“All of us are touched by cancer in some way, so it was great to give back. It was really exciting to be there. The crowd was probably the best it's been in years; the gym was packed. There was a large student section from both schools. ... It was just a huge success.”

The only bad part for Mars was the outcome on the court, a 3-1 loss to Knoch in a match between two top WPIAL Class AA teams. The Planets won the first game, 25-23, but the Knights rallied to claim the next three, 26-24, 25-21, 25-16.

“Looking at the stats, my girls did everything they could do. All the credit goes to Knoch,” Caraway said. “They beat Freeport at Freeport, which was huge. They have a great team, and they are consistently competitive. It really made for a great match. I was very happy with how my girls played.”

Knoch was thrilled to take part in the charity match and come out with the victory.

“It's a big rivalry, and it was a really huge match. There was a nice crowd, and the whole Pink Planet idea was great. It was good to be a part of it. Win or lose, it's a great event,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said.

It was a key match in Section 4-AA as well. The victory kept Knoch (9-1), which was coming off a win at Freeport (8-1), even in the loss column with the Yellowjackets atop the standings. The defeat dropped Mars (7-2) out of first. All three teams are on course to make the playoffs.

“The girls were so pumped up to beat Freeport after losing to them the first time around,” Geist said. “We expended a lot of energy in that, and we had to watch out against Mars. Mars was really up for the challenge, and it made for a really interesting meeting.”

The Planets hope to defend their WPIAL Class AA title. They play Knoch once more next week and close the regular season at the North Allegheny tournament.

“We are playing great competition at the end of the season. Hopefully, that will prepare us for the WPIAL playoffs,” Caraway said. “Our goals are to make it through that WPIAL tournament and put ourselves in a position to possibly make it back to the state tournament. We've played some of the top teams like Knoch, Freeport, Beaver and Blackhawk. We've seen everyone except for Seton-La Salle and Indiana. We're excited to play and excited to go against great teams. We're anxious to see what we can accomplish.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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