Raiders drop heartbreaker to Granby Memorial in five sets.
TORRINGTON: Emotion is a funny thing in sports. Players use it to get themselves pumped up for a big game or match. It can be a fickle friend as well though, just ask the Torrington Raiders team about letting it out just a little too early.
In an epic match between two Class M girls’ volleyball teams sure to be in the championship mix by the time the 2016 comes to an end, the Raiders were a mere point away from taking a tremendous volleyball match with the Granby Memorial Bears, up 14-10 in the fifth game.
Both teams had come in unbeaten, one would go home with a “W”, the other would have their streak come to a close.
The Bears, down to their last point at 14-10, dug deep and rallied all the way back to knot things at 14-all before taking the fifth and final game by an 18-16 final.
What happened after the Raiders were just a point away from pulling out a tough win against a team that now resides in Class M with them and won the State Championship in 2014?
“We played not to lose those last points,” Raiders head coach Christine Gamari said. “As opposed to playing to win as we had in the games we had won. We were no longer doing what we did to get ourselves there in the first place.”
The Bears come away with the win (25-14, 20-25, 18-25, 25-18, 18-6) and improve to 5-0 on the year, although the Raiders (6-1) handed them their first two losses of the year in games two and three.
Granby Memorial came out strong in that first game and came away with the momentum with a 25-14 win but the Raiders, battled tested before this match, came storming back in games two and three.
In game two the home team ran out to an 8-3 lead, watched as the Bears came back to know things at 14 but pulled away on the strong net play from Carissa Carbone and Jolie Fox to take game two, 25-20.
In those games, the Raiders were taking the action to the Bears and away from their best player, 6’3” senior Marieke van der Mark who was as advertised in the skills department.
Far from a one dimensional player, van der Mark can dominate at the net or at the service line, a challenge for any team not used to her style.
“She comes at you from a different angle,” Gamari said. “Not only is she left handed but with her height, she is serving down at you.”
When the Bears needed a big point or a rally started, they turned to their senior leader, something their head coach has been trying to get his team to do less.
“She is some kind of player,” head coach Dave Sprowson said. “We relied on her a little too much last year so we have been trying to get other players to step up this year but she is very talented.”
Torrington took a two games to one lead on the strength of a 25-18 game three in which they led from the 2-2 mark.
Senior Ali Dubois ran off five straight service wins to put the Raiders on the brink at 24-18 and they took game three off a Bears service.
This really was one magnificent volleyball game to watch at times on Monday night. The skill level on both teams was very high, the points never ending at points.
Game four was close and Torrington led 18-17 before the visitors, behind some tremendous serves by van der Mark, tied the match up by winning the final eight points, setting up the fifth and final game.
Nobody was able to break too far away in the fifth set, Torrington led 8-5 only to see the Bears win five of the next five of the nest seven points to tie things at 10.
First to 15 and ahead by two gives you a win in these deciding games so when the Raiders ran off the next four points to go up, 14-10, the visitors faced match point.
They would stare down that point four straight times.
Tied at 14.
Torrington went back up again at 15-14 but the Bears would not be denied and kept coming.
The last time the match was tied was at 16 all but a kill by van der Mark gave the visitors the lead they would not relinquish.
What happened when the Raiders were up by four in that last game?
Their senior all-star had her pulse on it.
“We got a little too energetic I think,” Carbone said. “And too caught up in the moment. We lost our heads and our composure a bit. We were thinking about that final point too much and we got a little over excited. The energy transfers over into the ball and bad things happen.”
These two teams meet again later this season in Granby and count on another battle for the ages as two of the best in Class M battle it out.
With both teams in Class M this year, it also sets up a potentially interesting post season as well.