It wasn't easy or pretty, but the Raiders move on to the Class M volleyball semis
TORRINGTON: It’s not supposed to be easy this time of the year.
After all, trying for the ultimate prize shouldn’t be. Battling towards a State Championship will test any team's will and mental toughness and, on Friday, that’s exactly what happened to the top seed in Class M.
The Torrington girls volleyball team is one step closer to that cherished ending to what has been a magical season, and while they seemed rocky at times in a 3-0 win over a tough Tolland team, they have earned themselves a trip to the Class M semi-finals.
Berkshire League foe Northwestern awaits on deck. The match that will decide who gets to the Finals will take place on Tuesday, November 15 at Canton High School at 6 p.m.
The Highlanders also won in straight sets, taking down Killingly in Winsted Friday afternoon.
A return trip to the finals, something that the Raiders have not done since 2008, is at stake.
The Raiders may have swept the Eagles in straight sets, as they have done so many times this season to their opponents, but this was hardly a masterpiece.
Tolland had gotten to this point by beating Naugatuck Valley League foe Woodland by a 3-2 final after being down two games to none, so they were battled tested.
The visitors broke out to an 8-4 lead in the first game with a style that was a little different than the Raiders had been used to before Friday night.
“We are used to seeing high sets coming out of the middle,” senior Carissa Carbone (10 kills, 19 digs) said. “It took us a little while to adjust because they were running quicks and their outside hitters were not what we have been used to seeing.”
Indeed, the Eagles style was less about power early and more about change-ups at the net or on the serves which threw the Raiders timing off some.
“They were very aggressive at the net in terms of blocking,” head coach Christine Gamari said. “We knew that’s what they brought, but some breakdowns on our end covering that part of their game didn’t help.”
After the Torrington jitters went by the wayside, the NVL champs climbed back into the lead while junior Nina Lestrud was serving and ran off on an 8-1 run.
Tolland didn’t go away in any of the three games and sure enough, went on a 6-0 run of their own to knot things at 16, a sure sign this was not going to be an easy night.
The final run of game one went to the home team, who ran off nine of the last 10 points to take game one by a 25-17 final.
Jolie Fox (18 kills) was her usual dominant self at the net, especially in game one.
Tolland had an answer in junior Amanda Koch, who could also play above the net, making it some kind of battle between the two.
When Torrington jumped out on an 11-4 run in game two, some may have thought they would be home for a late dinner, but this is the Class M quarterfinals and, did I mention, it’s not supposed to be easy?
A 16-8 Torrington lead turned into a tie game at 18 off an Eagles 10-2 run and, while the top-seeded Raiders pushed through for an eventual 25-23 win, one knew game three would be no picnic either.
With that memory of their comeback against Woodland fresh, the Eagles soared out to a 10-2 lead in game three behind the serves of junior Jordyn Dube, who ran off six in a row.
Torrington was not helping itself by committing unforced errors during points or when it served. Four missed serves during the last set made life tough, something they will need to clean up before the semifinals on Tuesday against a seasoned Highlanders team.
The climb to the win in the third game was slow, but effective, as the Raiders' mentality that prescribes to the theory of just one ball and one point at a time was on display.
Torrington never led in the final game until they went on top 23-22 with Carbone serving, but held off the Eagles for the 26-24 game and match win.
There were not many easy points for the Raiders, who came away with 58 digs to go with 42 kills, but missed seven serves, four in that tight final game and had 22 missed hits in three games, a rarity for this team.
Jayleen Colon was superb in her role as setter with 33 assists and played terrific defense with 11 digs, while Candyce Jewett added 11 digs.
It was not their best match. It was not their most crisp match and more will be needed to get two more wins, but the Torrington girls still came away with the win and will continue what they hope will be a journey to the top on Tuesday night in Canton.