YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It was more than just friendly rivalry at a middle school volleyball game Thursday night. Students from St. Christine’s made posters for volleyball players from St. Charles, whose coach died in a car accident Sunday night.
Jillian Marian, 31, died when she and Mark Pelini, 31, struck a deer with their SUV.
Marian was a teacher at Hubbard High School, but coached the girls’ volleyball and basketball teams at Saint Charles.
At a special pre-game prayer, both schools joined hands in a show of solidarity during a tragic time.
Parent Julie Sardich says Marian coached two of her daughters and that she taught them more than just a love of the game.
“She was a great role model for the kids. And she was always very positive, very supportive, pulling out the best in each of the kids and just teaching them to thrive to to continue to be their best self,” Sardich says.
Sheri Schmutz is a parent who stepped up to coach the rest of the season. She remembers Marian as someone who went far beyond normal coaching and teaching duties.
“Jill and her mom used to bake cookies for the girls every week,” says Schmutz. “They were well-fed because of Jill and her mother coming to the rescue and baking them cookies on a on a weekly — sometimes daily — basis.”
The girls’ game-day jerseys carried a special message of their late coach.
“We had put on their jerseys, ‘Don’t play scared — J.M.,’ because those were Jill’s words. And I think that’s something we need to live by, is that we don’t live our lives scared. And Jill was the best representation for that,” says Sardich.
Pelini was a former Mooney High School football standout, who was also on the Mooney coaching staff.