It's on to the Finals of Class M for the Torrington girls volleyball team.
CANTON: For the second time in school history, the Torrington girls’ volleyball team will have a chance to place a championship banner up in the Connie Donahue Gymnasium and they will have to get past an old rival to do so.
The Raiders dispatched with No 4 Northwestern in straight sets (25-19, 25-11, 25-20) on Tuesday night in a workman like effort that puts them into the Class M title game against Naugatuck Valley League foe Seymour, a team they dominated in the NVL Tournament less than two weeks ago in winning 3-0.
The Wildcats got by the only team to beat Torrington (25-1) this year when they eliminated Granby Memorial in four games (22-25, 25-22, 25-19 and 25-17).
It’s been one heck of a magical ride for Torrington and it continued against their neighbors from the north who did themselves proud with their run to the semi-finals.
Torrington has just been that good, that consistent with weapons galore where if it’’s not one, it certainly will be another.
The last time the Raiders made it to a girls volleyball final was back in 2008 when then head coach Janet Giampaolo led Raiders to the finals with a team that had a star named Julia Giampaolo (her junior year) on the floor. That Raider team came up short in the finals, something this year’s team is going to try and avoid.
Torrington has tasted defeat just once, in the Granby game that should have been theirs after being up 14-10 in the fifth and final game. Other than that, it’s been perfection for head coach Christine Gamari and her team.
The numbers are impressive. Just seven games lost all regular season, one in the NVL Tournament and a perfect 9-0 games won record in the States to date.
In a packed and loud gym on Tuesday night that told both teams this was something special, it was the Highlanders who got off to a quick start thanks to the hard serves of Highlander senior Kate Matava that took the Raiders some time to zone in on while adopting to the deafening sound inside the Warriors gym, something Gamari went over with her team.
“We knew the volume when it was just us,” Gamari said. “During our warmups, it was loud and echoing so we prepared them for it, we talked about it. We talked about what this gym looked like and how it is like other gyms we have played in this year because a lot of it is comfort level. We wanted them just to come in and take care of business and it took a couple of points for them to get used to it but we adjusted and realized we had seen this story before.”
Northwestern led 5-2 in the opener before the No 1 seed calmed down and adjusted while working out to a 13-10 lead that blew up into a 19-11 margin in the eventual 25-19 opening game win.
Junior Lauren Gaghan had five service points during the run and Ali Dubois added a pair of aces.
Game two started fast for the Raiders at 9-2 and after a short Highlanders rally brought things closer at 10-6, a 9-0 run with Dubois on the service line was something the Highlanders never recovered from in a 25-11 loss.
The critical third game, the one the Raiders have been putting away consistently this season, was all Highlanders from the start until Torrington rallied behind the hot serving of senior Jayleen Colon who is always the assist leader on this team but was a force in bringing her team back.
Colon was serving from three different spots on the backline, not something servers usually do unless something is clicking.
“She (Jayleen) was definitely feeling confident,” Gamari said. “She was moving and possibly pinpointing possible weak spots, so that’s huge. That’s an advantage for us. We didn’t want them to be able to run too much offense so the serves helped that. The serve took them out of system and everything.”
The Highlanders were not able to put together any sustained runs with the lead and it allowed the Raiders to get back into a better position quickly.
Northwestern held their last lead at 14-13 before the Raiders moved out on a 5-0 lead and you could sense the inevitable was occurring.
Carissa Carbone led the team with nine kills, Jolie Fox added seven while Dubois continued her habit of leading her team in digs with five. Colon added 17 assists and Candyce Jewett landed four aces.
Beating a team for the third time. We hear how hard it is all the time but that’s what the Raiders are going to have to do if they want to something no girls volleyball team has ever done by bringing home the title.
Torrington has not witnessed a State Champion since the Tony Turina led boys basketball team won it all back in 2006.
The volleyball team will get their chance on Saturday in East Haven at a time to be determined.