JOHNSTOWN- Some of the top interscholastic athletes in the state convened in Johnstown this past weekend for an action-packed weekend of girls volleyball.
The Flood City Challenge, which boasted 32 teams from across Pennsylvania, took place Saturday and Sunday at 1st Summit Arena at the Cambria County War Memorial.
“To have an event like this, and have it be successful, mean a great deal to me personally, and professionally. Growing up in Johnstown, it really hits home to continue to grow the sport of volleyball in our community and amongst the Laurel Highlands Region,” said Ridgetop president Jason Layman, who was a graduate of Richland High School. “I grew up playing hockey in the War Memorial for 15-plus years—my entire family did. And to be able to put together a volleyball tournament in the arena and over top the ice is something very special to me.”
The event, which was open to the public, saw over 400 interscholastic volleyball players hit the courts spanning age groups 15U, 16U, 17U and 18U. The tournament offered exposure for some of the top athletes around, and several college coaches and scouts were in attendance.
The ice surface at the War Memorial, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary, was covered and replaced with four playing mats.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, certain age groups played at specific times to limit the number of people in the arena at one time. While occupancy inside the arena was limited, the City of Johnstown and it’s local business received a boost from the influx of visitors coming into the city.
“From the professional side, the tournament is bringing in a lot of business to the Johnstown area,” Layman said. “We have hotels booked solid for the weekend with out of town teams, restaurants will be filling up with teams and their parents going out to dinner during the event. It truly is a great event to bring to our area, and the only one of its kind to be done.”
Based out of South Fork, the Ridgetop Volleyball Club is an Amatuer Athletic Union program that aims to provide athletes the opportunity to compete against top talent and further advance their development. Ridgetop fields 18 teams across seven age groups, 12U through 18U, with over 160 athletes involved from 32 different school districts.
Founded in 2013, the program is led by Layman and his wife, Cassie, and features an extensive and experienced coaching staff.
“We offer a little bit of everything from premier level teams to teams centered around more of an instructional setting, and everything in between,” Layman said. “There truly is something available for every athlete of every skill level. More importantly, we are offering the opportunity for our athletes to compete at higher levels and get exposure to volleyball outside of our immediate area.”
Ridgetop’s 16U Premier Navy team was among one of the tournament’s championship teams, defeating fellow Ridgetop program Premier Red in the championship matchup.
The Premier Navy team featured local players Isabella Kushner, Mikalah Kim and Alli Malay.
Ridgetop Volleyball Club has witnessed several teams over the past few years qualify for nationals, with its 15U Premier team earning a bid back in July to nationals in Orlando, Florida.
“The goal is to prepare these athletes for collegiate play and get them to the next level,” Layman said. “We are also about team building, and personal building, with our athletes. The athletes make many new friendships with girls from other schools and different backgrounds, and it truly is something special to see develop year after year.”