The Raiders in the Chase for the Class M Volleyball Title. Part One of Two. Carissa Carbone, Jolie Fox, Lauren Gaghan and Candyce Jewett.
TORRINGTON – The Torrington High girls’ volleyball team is on the brink of doing something truly historic, namely bringing home a state championship Saturday when they play Seymour in the Class M final.
If accomplished, it would mark the first girls’ team in school history to reach the highest of mountain tops. Girls’ sports began at THS in 1975, 41 years ago.
Head coach Christine Gamari, a Raider graduate, has developed a team that closely resembles her drive, motivation and aggressive style of play and today she talks about what makes her rotation of eight players so special.
We will divide this segment into two sections. One will run today. The next will run tomorrow.
First up: Carissa Carbone, Jolie Fox, Lauren Gaghan and Candyce Jewett.
SKINNY: Four-year varsity member; Four-year starter
QUOTABLE: C.C. brings competitiveness, huge amounts of talent, but also a lot of poise,’’ Gamari said. ``She is an extremely smart volleyball player who stays calm in tight spots. Her teammates always look to her for leadership and words of encouragement. She is always genuine and picks her other teammates up if they are down on themselves. C.C. is a great all-around volleyball player who contributes to the game in so many tangible and intangible ways.
``C.C. is a motivated competitor who is fiercely proud of our team. Don't ever say anything negative about her team or teammates because that only motivates her to outperform you even more.
``I've known C.C. since she was a very little girl. I'm most proud of what a great young woman she has become. She is mature, kind, and dedicated. I'm also extremely proud of the leadership abilities that C.C. exudes. She is always upbeat and positive, and often will say to the team exactly what I was going to say before I can say it. She's worked four years on the varsity court for these moments.
``As C.C. mentioned, being a part of the THSVB family has helped her get through some extremely tough times in her personal life, namely the passing of her mother, Hanada.
Hanada was a very active participant in our volleyball family, and most certainly one of our biggest fans. We attended the funeral as a team, but the support continued on after that as well for C.C. with check-ins and hugs. C.C. said it herself … She wouldn't have been able to get through the darkest time of her life without that. We all care about each other, both on and off the court.’’
SKINNY: Two-year varsity member; Two-year starter
QUOTABLE: ``Jolie brings amazing athleticism and aggressiveness to her play at the net,’’ Gamari said. ``She is very competitive and very proud of this team. When she needs to rotate out and sit on the bench, you can hear Jolie cheering on her teammates and continuing to keep their energy levels high.
``We've worked a lot with Jolie this year with respect to her play at the net. Jolie has definitely become a force at the net who has a big impact on how the opposing team runs its offense. She has become a better blocker and attacker this year because she has become more disciplined and a better decision-maker herself. She knows what to do with the ball when it gets to her.
``Jolie exemplifies our team mantra to push at the other team and dictate the pace of the game. Her big swings are exciting and energizing for us, while devastating for other teams. She often comes up with big points for our team, whether it be a block or an attack, when we need them.’’
SKINNY: Two-year varsity team member; Two-year starter
QUOTABLE: ``Lauren has a game-face. She is stoic and focused most of a match, but occasionally breaks out into a smile or two,’’ Gamari said. ``She is a competitor. When she was a younger player in our program, she used to be hard on herself, but she has matured over the years and has learned to shake off mistakes and bounce back in a positive way.
``Lauren is SO consistent when it comes to hitting and serving. She approaches every ball calmly and with such poise. She makes great decisions and is a formidable force in our front row.
``Lauren, like Candyce, was also part of my first class of students at Torrington Middle School. It has been great to get to see Lauren in a different light than just a student in the classroom.
``Lauren's role volleyball-position-wise should be very similar next year, however I'd love for her to step up and be more of a vocal leader on the court. She'll already have a TON of varsity level experience, and I want her to use that to help the younger or less-experienced players of the program as well.’’
SKINNY: Three-year varsity member
QUOTABLE: ``Candyce brings nothing but smiling, positive energy,’’ Gamari said. ``She is a vocal leader out on the court, one who her teammates look to keep them grounded and calm. She is incredibly coachable. She is a steady, confident passer that our team relies on to initiate our offense. She brings a lot of quickness and athleticism to the position as well. If she makes a mistake, she shakes it off and improves on the next ball.
``Candyce wants the ball. She is not shy about calling for it and taking control of the first contact. She wants to be a great libero, so she's always willing to ask questions or for advice about how to improve. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without her.
``Mostly, I'm just proud of the young woman that she has become. Candyce was part of my first class when I came to teach 8th grade science at Torrington Middle School (from Naugatuck High School). She was such a sweet girl and had a lot of the qualities I described above (upbeat, positive, etc), that it has been a pleasure continuing to work with her. I think she entered in as a freshman and said that she used to be a setter.... we saw A LOT of potential in her as a defensive specialist and as a libero, so we gradually moved her in that direction, which she gladly accepted.
``I'm FAIRLY confident that Candyce will play libero next year, but who knows! As a senior, I see her becoming an even better leader, one that I would trust completely to act as a liaison between the coaching staff and players. She was instrumental in organizing our Dig Gold event this year.’’