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Christine Gamari Drives Raider Volleyball to Lofty Position. By John Torsiello.

POSTED October 21, 2016
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After a star-studded career at Torrington High School and then Holy Cross College, Christine (Strawson) Gamari got used to excellence.

That’s why, when Gamari took over the reins of the Torrington High School volleyball team six years ago, you knew it wouldn’t be long before the Raiders were again one of the premier programs in the Naugatuck Valley League.

Indeed, Gamari took a losing team and instantly began to turn things around, making the state tournament her first year on the job. Since then, THS has continued a steady accession to the point where the Raiders stand unbeaten in the NVL with a 15-0 mark and, they hope, are driving towards a date with destiny in the upcoming NVL Tournament.

Torrington’s only loss of the season was to non-league foe Granby Memorial, one of the premier teams in Class M, in which the Raiders will compete come state tourney time. The Raiders were up, 14-10, in the fifth and deciding game of the match and a point from victory before Granby pulled the match out.

THS’ biggest wins of the season have been over Woodland (3-0), Naugatuck (3-2) and (3-0), and Seymour (3-1). Torrington beat Kennedy on Tuesday and has rematches with Woodland on Oct.21 and Granby Memorial on Oct 27.

Torrington finished 18-4 last year, was Iron Division co-champion with Woodland, and lost in the semifinals of the NVL tournament to the Hawks.

“We have had a total team effort,” said Gamari.

Jayleen Colon, a senior, is a superb setter, has improved her hustle and on finding her hitters. She’s also been a top defender and server. Senior Carissa Carbone (outside hitter) is one of the team’s top defenders, and “has a nose for the ball”; Jolie Fox (middle hitter), a senior, can hit from any front row position and has a variety of shots; junior Lauren Gaghan (outside hitter) is the team’s most consistent, reliable hitter and a top server; senior Ali DuBois (defensive specialist/opposite hitter) is a skilled passer and defender; junior Candyce Jewett (libero) has been the team’s most consistent, reliable passer; Nina Lestrud, a junior, was previously a setter, but has stepped into the role of middle hitter; and Gabby Ballesteros, a senior, is a defensive specialist.

Gamari said, “Our team is full of driven competitors. They have `never say die’ attitudes and have come up huge for us, especially in the matches versus Wolcott, Naugatuck, and Seymour, where we dropped set(s) early but came back to win the matches. I have some very good leaders out on the court who try to keep everyone settled and focused.”

Gamari was also a driven competitor at THS and Holy Cross.

As a volleyball player she was ALL-NVL her sophomore through senior years, was the outstanding senior athlete in the league her senior year, and was second team All-State her junior and senior years.

The accolades kept coming when she attended Holy Cross in Worcester, Ma. She was a member of the varsity for four years; was a three-time All-Patriot League selection, received numerous scholar-athlete honors; was The Crusader of the Year her senior season, and held the program’s all-time kill record before it was recently broken. She graduated pre-med in 2008.

Although she at first believed medicine was going to be her calling, she opted not to attend med school.

“I reevaluated my goals when I graduated, but I kind of felt all along that I wanted to be a teacher and coach. You are pretty locked in when you get into the medical field and I wanted to work with kids and coach.” When an opening arose, she applied for the volleyball head coaching position at Torrington and the rest is history. Gamari’s coaching record stood at 93-34 after the win over Kennedy. In addition to tying for the Iron Division title last year, her teams have won a Copper Division crown during her tenure

Gamari knew she had a good team coming back this year, losing only one senior from last year’s club. “Honestly, we have great players all over the court. It’s going to be difficult for me to narrow down my selections for All-NVL to three or four. They could all be all-league. We have a nice mix of seniors and juniors.”

Torrington has its sights set high this year, but the Raiders aren’t getting ahead of themselves. Said Gamari, “The girls know what it takes to perform well in games and practice and they are remaining focused. We certainly don’t want to be a one-and-done team come tournament time.”

This year’s captains are Colon, Ballesteros and Jewett. Gamari is assisted by her mom, Pat Strawson, Janet Giampaolo and volunteer coach Kyle Phalen.

“When we work together we are at our best,” said Jewett, during a recent practice. “We know we can go a long way if we stick to that.”

Said Ballesteros, “We have girls who pick one another up and help out if they see a weak spot. It’s really neat to be part of something special.”

Gamari said her team is working to limit unforced errors. “We have played sets where we have had close to zero unforced errors; it is definitely more difficult to beat us if we are playing error-free volleyball. We are also working on remaining aggressive for the entirety of a set/match, both offensively and defensively.”

As for the final few weeks of the regular season the coach observed, “We know we are in for some tough matches in the coming weeks and our job is to make sure we are ready for them.”The Torrington High School Softball team has been invited to play at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL for the spring training camp next April! My teammates and I are beyond excited to have been given this opportunity. Many of us are graduating next year and to have the experience of this trip while traveling to such a wonderful place to play softball is a dream come true. For those of you who follow our team, you know how hard we play. We're passionate and determined. And it's with these qualities demonstrated over the last few years, that we have become the successful high school team that we are.  But ultimately, it has given us this privilege to go to Florida.

Our 2017 softball team contains 8 seniors that have been playing softball together for many years. We won the District state championships together as a team at the ages of 10 and then again at 12! And last year, our team made it to the state semifinals, the furthest any softball team has gone post season in Torrington High school's history.
The Torrington High School Softball team has been invited to play at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL for the spring training camp next April! My teammates and I are beyond excited to have been given this opportunity. Many of us are graduating next year and to have the experience of this trip while traveling to such a wonderful place to play softball is a dream come true. For those of you who follow our team, you know how hard we play. We're passionate and determined. And it's with these qualities demonstrated over the last few years, that we have become the successful high school team that we are.  But ultimately, it has given us this privilege to go to Florida.

Our 2017 softball team contains 8 seniors that have been playing softball together for many years. We won the District state championships together as a team at the ages of 10 and then again at 12! And last year, our team made it to the state semifinals, the furthest any softball team has gone post season in Torrington High school's history
The Torrington High School Softball team has been invited to play at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL for the spring training camp next April! My teammates and I are beyond excited to have been given this opportunity. Many of us are graduating next year and to have the experience of this trip while traveling to such a wonderful place to play softball is a dream come true. For those of you who follow our team, you know how hard we play. We're passionate and determined. And it's with these qualities demonstrated over the last few years, that we have become the successful high school team that we are.  But ultimately, it has given us this privilege to go to Florida.

Our 2017 softball team contains 8 seniors that have been playing softball together for many years. We won the District state championships together as a team at the ages of 10 and then again at 12! And last year, our team made it to the state semifinals, the furthest any softball team has gone post season in Torrington High school's history
The Torrington High School Softball team has been invited to play at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL for the spring training camp next April! My teammates and I are beyond excited to have been given this opportunity. Many of us are graduating next year and to have the experience of this trip while traveling to such a wonderful place to play softball is a dream come true. For those of you who follow our team, you know how hard we play. We're passionate and determined. And it's with these qualities demonstrated over the last few years, that we have become the successful high school team that we are.  But ultimately, it has given us this privilege to go to Florida.

Our 2017 softball team contains 8 seniors that have been playing softball together for many years. We won the District state championships together as a team at the ages of 10 and then again at 12! And last year, our team made it to the state semifinals, the furthest any softball team has gone post season in Torrington High school's history.
The Torrington High School Softball team has been invited to play at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL for the spring training camp next April! My teammates and I are beyond excited to have been given this opportunity. Many of us are graduating next year and to have the experience of this trip while traveling to such a wonderful place to play softball is a dream come true. For those of you who follow our team, you know how hard we play. We're passionate and determined. And it's with these qualities demonstrated over the last few years, that we have become the successful high school team that we are.  But ultimately, it has given us this privilege to go to Florida.

Our 2017 softball team contains 8 seniors that have been playing softball together for many years. We won the District state championships together as a team at the ages of 10 and then again at 12! And last year, our team made it to the state semifinals, the furthest any softball team has gone post season in Torrington High school's history.

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