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Raider volleyball holds banquet but more work remains.

POSTED November 14, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Torrington girls’ volleyball head coach Christine Gamari knew that Sunday night was a little different as her team held what normally would have been their end of the year banquet at Chatterley’s in Torrington.

Trouble is, the Raiders season is not quite done yet.

After sweeping Tolland on Friday night in the Class M quarterfinals at Torrington High School, the Raiders have remaining work to do, starting on Tuesday night when they take on Berkshire League foe Northwestern at Canton High School starting at 6 p.m. in the Class M semi-finals.

So, the head coach used the event for something else.

“We are certainly in a different position than we have been in previous seasons when this night has taken place,” Gamari said. “If you don’t mind, instead of considering this a year end banquet or celebration, I hope everyone will join me in considering it a very classy team building activity.”

This is a team that has exceeded all expectations to date, except perhaps their own and that of their coaches.

They have taken something from each of the leaders that sit on the Raiders bench. From Coach Maryanne Mussleman (The Aunt) to Kyle Phalen (The quiet force) to Pat Strawson (Mom) and to Gamari who has been as good an influence in every part of these young ladies life’s as anyone could ask.

The head coach talked about moments that made her proudest this year.

“Despite the amazing record of 24-1 and an NVL Championship,” Gamari said. “I have never been more proud of a team than on their “Dig Gold” night when they raised a little under $600 dollars and several boxes of donated toys for the children at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. They undertook this cause as their own and saw it through from beginning to end with everyone stepping up and contributing in some way. The gym and raffle baskets looked fantastic and the baked goods were delicious.”

Apparently, the brownies one of the parents made were legendary this year and Master of Ceremony Glenn Carbone raved about one of the most dedicated Parent Group that raises thousands of dollars for this team in 2016.

The Raiders have always been competitive in a busy NVL with the likes of Seymour or Woodland over the years but something switched this year because of the efforts of this team.

“For years our varsity program was considered the underdog.” Gamari said. “Despite being division champs or co-division champs and several times finishing in the top three of the league. This year however, we established that we were finished being the underdog and were ready to take our place at the very top and we did so in a way that made the other teams respect us and our program.”

The Raiders become an opposing coach’s nightmare this year as they game planned for one thing and were normally hit with another.

“This season, a repetitive theme for our program has been the concept of team,” Gamari said. “I think other teams realized that we were larger than one person. We bring strength from all positions on the court as well as on the bench and in the stands. We are not defined by one because we are one. We are formidable because when an opponent thinks they have rotated away a strength, we fill it with another one. When an opponent thinks they have started a run, we stop it and start our own. When an opponent thinks they have quieted our energy, our bench and our fans in the stands only cheer louder, getting us back up again.”

The Raiders have taken the competitive spirit of their head coach to another level and in the process, created the kind of buzz winning brings.

“The other night, I was struck by the number of people who came out to support us against Tolland,” Gamari said. “The stands were packed with positive energy and I found myself proud for this team and community. Those fans recognize has special this season has and continues to be and they want to feel a part of that energy. You are inspiring people who have never even watched a volleyball game come out and support our team and the sports which is a testament to the hard work that you have put in since August and for many of you, the work you have put in for several years.”

As they wind down towards the real end of this season, one they hope ends on Saturday with a Championship, the head coach reminded her players to live in the moment.

“Getting to this point has not been easy,” Gamari said. “But now we need to remember to enjoy the experience and not forsake the opportunity.”

The seven seniors, Gabby Ballesteros, Sara Bardwell, Courtney Cappabianca, Jayleen Colon, Ali Dubois, Jolie Fox and Carissa Carbone spoke about their coaches and teammates with Carbone wrapping up the night talking about what being part of this family has meant to her.  

“The program has taught me so much more than just the ins and outs of volleyball,” Carbone said. “It has shaped my character, personality and my attitude.”

Ad we often say and try to remind anyone who doesn’t see the value of sports in a high school student’s overall development is for them to look what this coaching staff has meant to these student/athletes and it starts with the head coach.  

“Coach Gamari,” Carbone said. “We often forget that you are not only a coach but a teacher, wife, mother, daughter and friend. The dedication and effort that you put into this program is truly remarkable. The lessons that you teach, on and off the court are truly unforgettable. Your lessons and words of advice will stay with me long after I leave Torrington High School.”

Making champions is not easy but starts with a simple couple of words of wisdom, which Carbone has never forgotten and occurred when she was just a struggling freshman looking for guidance.

“Coach said some unforgettable words of advice for me,” Carbone said. “Let’s go CC, I believe in you. Those are the words that have stuck with me over my four years. Coach Gamari believes in me.”

We usually end by talking about how memorable this season has been and what it will mean for the next group that takes over.

Not this time folks, this story doesn’t have an ending yet.

Canton High School, 6 p.m. on Tuesday night. Come on out and take in the magic that is Raider volleyball.



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