Another big test for the Torrington girls volleyball team comes Monday night against Granby Memorial.
TORRINGTON: During her amazing three-sport career at Torrington High School, Raiders girls volleyball head coach Christine Gamari never shied away from playing the best in anything.
In fact, it brought out the best in her every time she took to the court or track. Bring it on.
After her team traveled down to Seymour and left the Wildcats with their first loss of the season by winning three straight games after dropping the opener, the Raiders host another team with an unblemished record as 4-0 Granby Memorial come to Torrington Monday night.
Two very competitive, championship caliber teams in three days sits very well with the ultra -competitive former Raider great.
Would she like to see her team play against these type teams every time out?
“Oh, yeah,” Gamari grinned. “It’s much better for our team to play against teams we have to play our best against. We have long term goals in mind and we want as many competitive games as possible. We need different challenges, we need different looks from different players so when state time comes around, we know what adjustments need to be made.”
Her 2016 Raider girls are adopting a similar outlook as they make their way through a campaign that is still perfect after six outing. Six up, six down.
They used to be the hunters, they may now be the hunted and their head coach is fine with that.
“I think this group kind of strives on that,” Gamari said. “They have gone after teams that have had that target on their back and I think they are excited to be that team. They are super competitive and probable want to win more than any team I have had since I have been here.”
Granby Memorial has been an out of conference game Gamari has long had as part of her schedule. The Bears won the Class M State Championships in 2014 and have won two of the last three matches the teams have played but Torrington came out on top, 3-1 a year ago.
The Bears, who won the Class M State Championship in 2014, have a rather large presence in their lineup, senior Marieke Van Der Mark who comes in near the 6’3” height mark.
Van Der Mark will determine a great deal of how and where the Raiders base both their offensive and defensive game plans going in.
“She’s not just a player who stays at the net,” Gamari said. “She moves all around the court so we will have to be aware of where she is at all times.”
On Friday night in Seymour, the Raiders may have been a bit nervous in the match opener when they committed 11 unforced errors in dropping that first game but showed grit by coming back to dominate game two by a 25-9 score, stunning the Wildcats who had not lost a game all year long.
“We struggled the first game,” senior Jayleen Colon said before practice on Sunday evening. “We had a lot of unforced errors but we talked to each other as a team afterwards and said things to each other that encouraged us to play better and we did in those last three sets.”
Carissa Carbone, the only member of the team to have played varsity all four years, has watched the development of her team during her career as one of the top volleyball players in the Naugatuck Valley League and knew her team does not lack confidence going into tough games like this.
“We know what we need to do,” Carbone said. “We will need to know where their big girl (Van Der Mark) is and make sure we hit around her. She is a very big blocker and plays all around. She can pass, she can serve. She does it all.”
Defending against that type of player requires a defensive effort like the one Gamari got from her team on Friday night when digs were coming from all over the court.
“CC (Carbone) is a great defender,” Gamari said. “Ali (Dubois) is a great defender, I’m not sure how she gets to some of the balls she gets to. I think Ali really loves playing defense.’
A good offense on the court starts with a defense that denies the opponent the point they may normally be able to count on before turning it into a chance for a point themselves.
Two big matches over the space of two school days against powerful programs may intimidate lesser programs but in the case of the Raiders and their quietly intense head coach, it’s what they strive for.
Bring it on.