Torrington serves an ace with Gamari's appointment as volleyball head coach. Story by Rick Wilson.
TORRINGTON – Nothing is ever a sure thing, but you have to figure hit a home run with this appointment.
The Red Raiders have turned to one of their all-time greats to get their girls volleyball team back on track with the appointment of Christine (Strawson) Gamari as the new head coach. Gamari replaces Sabrina Smeltz who held the post just one season.
‘(Smeltz’) position with the YMCA became less flexible. She couldn’t get here for practice until 4:15 p.m.,” explained Torrington Athletic Director Janet Giampaolo about the change.
Coaching is now a family affair for the Gamari’s with Christine’s husband Eric, currently the THS boys varsity basketball coach.
“I’m very excited,” said Gamari. “When the opportunity came about I had to weigh the pros and cons. I teach in another district (Naugatuck). When I figured out it could work, I was really excited.”
Gamari, a 2004 THS graduate, had a stellar career while wearing a Red Raider uniform and then performing for . On the basketball court she scored 1,493 points while earning All-State honors for coach Mike Fritch’s teams.
A second team All-Stater for the Red Raiders’ volleyball team, Gamari went on to play at Holy Cross where she earned a host of awards including second team All-Conference honors for three years while graduating as the school’s all-time leader in kills.
She was also Patriot Conference volleyball scholar-athlete of the year for her last two years and Crusader of the Year for all sports her senior season.
Gamari, a science teacher at Naugatuck High, has not strayed very far away from her Red Raider roots and has been volunteering as an unpaid assistant for the girls basketball team the last two seasons.
It is those hometown roots that Gamari feels are an irreplaceable connection to her new position.
“I came from this program, I think it is important for girls to have a role model,” said Gamari. “I tied my shoes and put on my sneakers on this court. I played for most of the coaches that these girls play for. I hope that bonds us somewhat. I also played for great coaches and I know what that is like. It’s something I aspire to.”
Gamari played for Giampaolo her senior year at THS and while basketball might have brought more headlines, Giampaolo saw a volleyball player with unlimited potential.
“I kept saying to her all year, what are you doing, where are you going,” said Giampaolo. “I thought her volleyball skills would get her further than her basketball skills and the sport was easier on her feet and back which she had trouble with during high school.”
However, Gamari’s focus during the off-season at the time was on basketball which deflected some of the volleyball focus away from here.
“Otherwise, more people would have known the gem we were hiding,” Giampalo said.
Gamari has always been the admirable combination of scholar and top notch athlete, all of which was quite evident when interviewed for the position.
“The committee was impressed with Christine’s playing experience, being female and her perfectionism,” said Giampaolo. “Also the idea of the excitement she brought about being part of the coaching staff. You could feel it running through her veins.”
Gamari takes over a program that was 4-14 a year ago. At this point, she needs to familiarize herself with the personnel and its strengths and weaknesses. But she does know two things.
“I plan to build team camaraderie and make sure we give 100 percent,” Gamari said. “We won’t lose with a lack of effort. I never left the court saying I should’ve done this. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Maybe better shape. With Gamari’s appointment it appears that the program is already in good shape.”