Job security, starting a family.

After Shippensburg and the State Championship, graduation took a big bite out of the Mustangs.  Losing the core of what was a once in a lifetime team would present challenges for any coach, so Ellen had some volleyball shoes to fill in the fall of 1984.  Returning Letterman Darcy Hammer and Kim Kenna were joined by Amy McDowell, Lisa Gallippi, Sherri Dublino, Laura Thompson, and Lori Hazuka.
This group had done a nice job at the JV level, and now it was time to move up and compete.  They say that once you win a title, everybody is gunning for you.  This team found out that old axiom is true, and they did a very good job, returning to the WPIAL's.
Ellen also continued working with the boy's program, developing young players who would eventually move up and be strong competition with the varsity squad.  I wish I could name all the players Ellen came in contact with during her years at Plum, but here is a few who we would continue to intersect with over the years...
Deanna Daggett-Ellen's first Asst Coach
Denise and Debbie DePellegrini-also helped Ellen at Leechburg
Dan Clair-Ellen's favorite volunteer assistant at Kiski Area
Keith Livsey-possessor of crazy big hoops, and YMCA over 30 league teammate!
Mike Fierini-Current Franklin Regional Coach
Mary Ellen Ferragonio(Gillespie) and her Sister Charlotte Fisher(Gillespie)-both former Norwin Knights and Ellen's first two Asst. Coaches at Plum.  Mary Ellen is now the Head Coach at Norwin.
Kristy O'Hara Trn, whose niece Rylee is a current KA Cavalier.
Amy McDowell-Youngest of the McDowell's and always quick to call, text or Facebook, checking on Ellen and the kids.  Our visit to her Atlanta home, and getting to know her husband John and her beautiful children Palmer and Lindsay was a blast!

The Plum years were filled with great times, great friends and terrific volleyball, but they weren't without sorrow.  Kim Kenna, who had gone on to college at Penn State and had graduated.  She was murdered while working as a security guard at a school in Maryland.  It was awful seeing all of our friends under those circumstances.  Kim was a kind, polite, and lovely young girl, and we still think of her often.

After Ellen's sixth year at Plum, an opportunity came up for a position at Allegheny Ludlum, in the Alloy Testing Lab.  It was a difficult decision to make, teaching jobs just weren't opening up.  Getting a job at Ludlum was like hitting the lottery at that time.  Real good pay, and a forty hour week.  It was shift work, however, and coaching wouldn't be possible, so Ellen left Plum to test tensile strength in West Leechburg.

I had also changed jobs, working for Mary Ellen Ferragonio's husband Joe, at his families office supply company.  I was charged with delivering supplies throughout Allegheny County and though the hours were often long, to this day it was my favorite job!  Everyone I saw during the day was happy see me!

Having a more stable work situation was always an important key in when Ellen and I would start a family. It didn't take long before  Ellen was pregnant, and our first child was due early in November of 1988.  Ellen had a normal pregnancy and on November 2nd, I got a call at work.  Ellen was spotting and the doctor wanted her to come in.

I arrived at the hospital and met Ellen and her sister Pam in the labor and delivery room.  Her contractions weren't terribly strong, so we waited.  Ellen felt a rush of fluid, and we called the nurse.  There was more concern on her face than what I had expected.  What we thought was Ellen's water breaking was blood.  The nurse quickly called for help and cleared the room except for me.  Nurses and doctors rushed in and out, they made me sign papers, and then everyone was gone.
I have never been so alone, standing in that empty room, at Forbes Regional Hospital, sobbing.  Soon a nurse came in to guide me to the waiting area, and explain to me what had happened.  Sometime late in Ellen's pregnancy her placenta dropped, and while she dilated, it tore.  She was rushed in for an emergency C-section.
It didn't take long before the doctors came out to tell us the news.  The blood loss was to the baby, she was transfused quickly, but had been without blood for some time.  She was alive, but on a ventilator.  Ellen was going to be fine, but the baby was being transferred to the neo-natal unit at West Penn Hospital.  Ellen's anesthetic wore off just in time for me to explain it to her and see her off.  We would name her Maggie, Ellen's nickname.  Maggie survived the night in the NICU, and we talked the doctors at both hospitals into transferring Ellen to West Penn so we could all be together.  Even though things looked better, the doctors warned us the prolonged blood loss damaged the brain, and in time things could change for the worse.  They
 did.  We consulted with doctors and clergy, and were ask to make the most difficult decision.  If Maggie regressed, we would chose not to return her to the ventilator.  We were assured by the doctors that there would be no improvement, and by the clergy that our baby, Maggie Alyse Toy, would be welcomed into God's Kingdom.  On November 8th, Maggie passed in our arms.
Maggie's passing took a long time to recover from.  We were so excited to be parents.  It hurt to come home to an empty room, that we had prepared as a nursery.  It just didn't seem fair.  I questioned God a great deal at that time.  We were lucky to have each other, supportive family close by and friends who understood and loved us.  Without these things this time would have been far worse.
We really wanted to have a baby, and a year after Maggie passed, Ellen was pregnant again.  Alyse Marie Toy was born on May 28th, 1990.  She was beautiful!  Finally a family!
Ellen return to Ludlum and worked a while doing shifts again.  It was hard, but with the help of both of our mothers, and a lot of early morning feedings for me we made it work for a while.  Then came the break that would change everything.  There was a rumor of a Physical Education retirement at Leechburg.  Ellen had subbed there a lot before taking the position at Ludlum.  She had gained the favor of Principle Denny Wolfe and though they didn't have a volleyball program, they were interested in one.  Leechburg was not Title IX compliant.  They had 3 boys activities(Football, Basketball, and Baseball) but only two for girls(Basketball and softball).  Ellen would go back to teaching in 1992 and Leechburg would field it's first volleyball team in 1993!

(More of the story of Maggie is available at