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Alyssa Otis: A three-sports Raider who gets the history too.

POSTED June 22, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Torrington's Alyssa Otis juggles three sports (soccer, basketball and track) while finding time to talk history on a National stage. Read the Otis story on Wednesday only here on your home for local sports.

TORRINGTON: It’s probably better for any opponent of Torrington senior Alyssa Otis (in any of the three sports she excels at; soccer, basketball or track) to not take the big smile and shy nature as a sign of weakness.

She may just blow by them for a goal, a lay-up or a high-jump win while flashing a ‘gotcha’ grin.

Otis just finished a break-out junior year that saw her go from secondary threat to the main event in a blink of an eye.

On the pitch (her favorite sport) Otis has long been known in the Naugatuck Valley League ranks as someone who needs to be marked tightly near the goal, and not just for her foot skills.

You gotta watch the head. Otis has developed a knack for finding the net with her head since coming on the varsity scene during her freshman year with the Raiders.

The combination of now graduated star Sarah Royals and Otis, around the goal created nightmares for many a NVL opponent.

If a free kick was earned anywhere inside the 35-yard line, the combo went on high alert and looked to score on every chance.

“Sarah and I have been playing together for a long time,” Otis said, “We just kind of know how to connect on the field.”

Add in the lethalness of a Royals corner-kick and teams had to guard against two tremendous weapons around the goal.

The two also share a slightly painful, but memorable event on the pitch, involving teeth and one of their skulls.

During a Raiders league game during her sophomore year, Otis and Royals where fighting for possession of a ball in the air when Royals was introduced to the perfect smile of her friend but in a way neither could have imagined.

“We collided and I lost a tooth on her head,” Otis remembered, “We laugh about it now because it reminded us of when we were younger and I got mad at her and bit her. It was scary at the time because we were both hurt but it worked out okay.”

Royals would return with a protective cap over the injury and Otis would be back using her head near the net in no time and the duo continued to dominate on the pitch.

The Raiders soccer program has come a long way over the three years Otis has been a part of it and this fall, Otis will be looked at for more of a leadership role as she joins the ranks of the senior class.

There’s more to Otis than just sports and she attacks these interests with the same passion she brings to her sports endeavors.

Take history. Turns out Otis has a flair for telling great stories about topics that occurred well before she was even born.

Otis entered in a National History Day competition earlier this spring and came away with the top prize in the Torrington area.

Her report was on the infamous My Lai Massacre which occurred in March of 1968 during the Vietnam War.

It was reported that between 347 to 504 civilians were killed by United States military personnel in one of the worst events of the war.

Otis was struck by the tragic story and how just one man, Second Lieutenant William Calley, was ever convicted.

“He never even apologized until recently for his part in the massacre,” Otis said, “It showed how we still need to use good judgment when determining proper force in any conflict.”

The event was held at UConn Torrington and was just the first step in an experience that taught Otis she could compete not only in sports, but in the education fields as well.

From there, the competition moved to a State level in Hartford and her project earned her a third-place prize and a trip to the Nationals in Maryland, at the University of Maryland.

“That was probably one of the greatest times I have ever had outside of sports,” Otis said, “We got to stay in the dorms, like we would in college and there was a lot of bonding going on, just like in sports. I never thought I would fit in on the education side as well I did.”

Otis did feel like she had a bit of Torrington with her during the weekend as Raider swim legend Ray Cswerko, who is going to swim for the Terrapins this fall, was on hand for his orientation.

Staying busy is never an issue for this energetic Raider leader who became a big part of the Raiders basketball success this past winter.

Known for her ability to crash the boards well when the season started, Otis became more of an offensive threat for head coach Mike Fritch as the year went on.

“We had to give Sarah (Royals) some help in the scoring department,” Otis said, “I just had to step up and look for my shot when I could.”

As the season progressed, her inside game did too. Many a taller player in the NVL was pushed aside by the more aggressive and determined junior forward who developed a strong left-handed move to the basket as the year went on.

Torrington made a run in the States that ended just a game short of the championship game in Class L but this group of players had made a statement around that the THS program was strong and would be for years to come.

Otis will be back this winter and will be joined by senior transfer, Caycee Williams, who should help make the Raiders front line something to deal with around the state again.

As spring rolled around, it was time for track and field under the guidance of head coaches Rich Dubois and Jada Mattiello, two coaches who have moved the bar up when it comes to expectations.

“Coach Mattiello has really helped me progress a lot,” Otis said, “She gives us the toughest love possible and helps us get over ourselves. She has made us all better at what we do.”

All Otis did was come away with a State Championship in the High Jump with a 5’0” leap in the Class MM Open on May 31, at Middletown High School.

Otis was scheduled to compete in two events, the triple jump and the high jump but decided to focus on just the High jump.

“You literally have to run from one event to the other,” Otis said, “I wanted to put all my focus on the high jump and it worked out.”

All this mind you, with a concussion sustained a week earlier after a hard collision with her ceiling (long story, film at 11) that put the States at risk but nothing was going to stop this tough-minded athlete from competing.

It is that intense level of competition that sets Otis away from the rest of the pack. That all-in, I’m going to give it my all, attitude.

On the field or in the classroom, this Raider is making all the right moves.

Beware of the smile.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here