Torrington volleyball falls to East Haven in Class M Quarterfinals but what a great ride it's been with no end in sight.
TORRINGTON: Look at the Torrington volleyball team's last three years and you can come to just one conclusion.
This is one strong program with a foundation built on the character and determination of their head coach and fueled by a desire to always do their best.
Three years. A semi-final appearance two years ago, followed up by a Class M title game a year ago and a quarterfinal game this year.
That's Gamari tough, as in the Raiders head coach Christine Gamari, a consummate competitor and it shows in her team's grit and fight.
While the ride this year may have ended at the hands of a talented East Haven team in four games (25-23, 25-20, 16-25, 25-20), it takes nothing away from what this program has accomplished since Gamari took over seven years ago.
On Friday night, the Raiders ran into a tough Yellowjackets team that plays a very similar scrappy game like Torrington does but on this night, the long points that had gone their way against Jonathan Law in their second-round game, went the way of the visitors in the first two games.
Down two games to none, the hill was steep but the Raiders dug in and found that fight that is so like their head coach, by taking game three by a 25-16 score.
East Haven had a talented forward in senior Kylie Schlottman, who dominated at the net in the first two games but was held mostly in check over the final two.
Game four was tied at 11 before the visitors from the SCC began to create a little separation and while Torrington got within three at 23-20, the Yellowjackets came away with the match win.
In defeat, the Raiders showed their head coach something she didn't always see this year and she was pleased.
"I told them afterwards that I was proud of their fight," Gamari said. "I have seen them play on their heels or play conservative or play scared but I didn't see that tonight. I saw trying and fighting and playing together and I'm proud of them for that. It didn't turn out the way we wanted to but we fought."
Coming off a finals appearance a year ago, the Raiders posted an 18-2 regular season mark and lost just 13 games all season, continuing a winning trend that started when the former Raider star took the job.
"It's been seven years that I've been here," Gamari said. "To do what we have done in that short time is amazing. Every coach wants those opportunities but not that many coaches get that opportunity."
All the Raiders have done over those seven years is post a 110-25 regular mark (.815 winning percentage) with state tournament appearances each year.
A year ago, they were a win away from the promise land and graduated a great deal of talent but when a program is as strong as this one, there is always someone ready to step up.
"While there were some returners," Gamari said. "There were also players who were made to wait because they were on the bench, waiting for an opportunity."
Take Shae Eucalitto, a seldom used player a year ago because of players who were in front of her who was given the chance to prove herself this year and did so in a big way.
"She did a really good job," Gamari said. "She stepped in and ran the offense. She really didn't step on a varsity court or a varsity match until our first march this year. So, what she did this year for us, in those big games is huge."
Senior Libero, Candyce Jewet was named the Top Senior in the Naugatuck Valley League and made an impact on the program the moment she stepped on the court as a freshman.
She spoke of the influence her coach had on her early on.
"She found something in me during my freshman year," Jewett said. "Putting me out there on the varsity court. She found something in me before I saw it myself."
So many players stepped up this year to make it another to remember.
Nina Lestrud got stronger and stronger as the season went on and was a force in the second- round win and again Friday night, as were Lauren Gaghan, Bayleigh DiMauro, Isabel Weber, Vivian Jimenez-Rijo and Tatum Marino.
With over 30 girls in this outstanding program, count on Gamari and her coaches to have another group of winners ready to make their mark when fall rolls around next year.