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Saluting the 2016 Torrington volleyball team. Thanks for the memories.

POSTED November 21, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: As they head back to class on Monday, members of the Torrington volleyball team need to remember to do one thing.

Keep their heads held high.

This extraordinary group of young ladies and their coaches took us all on one terrific ride that started in August and ended five days before we give thanks for all that we have.

So today, I say thanks, as I hope their fan base does as well, for being the kind of team that makes us happy to do what we on this side of the keyboard do in telling the story of how you all got to this point.

Sure, it stings that they didn’t become the first girls’ team in school history to bring home a State Championship but they did so much more.

They introduced many to the game that they love to play and gave them thrill upon thrill during the winningest season in school history with their 25-2 final mark that included an unbeaten Naugatuck Valley regular season that brought home the title and the NVL Tournament crown as well.

A new banner will rise inside the Connie Donahue Gymnasium and patches will be added to existing ones.    

Here’s some thanks from us to each player or coach who led the run to the Class M final.

Thanks to head coach Christine Gamari who exemplifies everything exceptional about being a teacher of young people, both on and off the court. This was her team in every sense. They played with a calm but steeled confidence that was instilled in them by a coach who demanded much and gave even more. We thank her for allowing us to tell the story of her season by making anyone we needed available to talk. A class act all the way, thanks coach.

Thanks to Raiders assistant coaches Kyle Phalen, Maryanne Musselman and Pat Strawson for their dedication to this team and to this community. Each had their role which they pulled off beautifully. Klye the older brother to some of these players and a steadying influence on the bench. Maryanne was sometimes known as the “Crazy Aunt” but her level of commitment to these young ladies is unmatched. She is the ultimate cheerleader for her girls’, their biggest fan. Strawson was the mother of the team and duly nicknamed that by her girls. Her attention to the little things helped her daughter, the head coach, pay more attention to the big picture.

Thanks to the juniors, Candyce Jewett, Lauren Gaghan and Nina Lestrud.

Jewett became one of the most consistent and strongest servers on the Raiders down the stretch and brought a consistent positive energy to the squad along with as strong a back line as you will find when combined with one of five seniors, Carissa Carbone.

Gaghan may have been the most improved at the net this year, giving the Raiders a triple threat with Carbone and senior Jolie Fox. Her ability to come away with critical points on kills while her opponent was looking to stop the other two big hitters was huge all year long.

Lestrud found her home as a middle hitter this year and never gave it up. It was her first year playing and by years end, she looked like a three year pro. When the Raiders needed a big service run, it was Lestrud who often times was the one who came through.

Now the seniors.

Thanks to Gabby Ballesteros for providing key moments off the bench as part of their eight player rotation. Her team could count on her for key digs when they needed them and a sense of humor that showed up on and off the court.

Thanks to Jayleen Colon for being the wheel that kept the machine turning with her superb ability to set up her teammates to the tune of 629 assists in her senior year. A setter doesn’t always get the glory but make no mistake, without Colon doing her thing near the net, nothing good came from the offense side of the Raider’s offense.

Thanks to Jolie Fox for leaving everything she had on the court each and every game and for developing into one of the most feared players at the net in the state. Her blocking ability was tremendous and watching her matched up against the other teams big hitter was always a site to see. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the performance by Fox.

Thanks to Ali Dubois for being a player after many a coach’s heart by putting her heart and soul into her second best sport, although she has professed to loving volleyball and liking softball, a sport she will play in college at Boston University after another season with Torrington next spring. Her permanent smile and words of encouragement were evident no matter the situation or stress level. As one of the best softball pitchers in the entire state, Dubois knows pressure. On the mound, everything revolved around her, on the volleyball court it is more of a team effort and Dubois thrived in picking or keeping her teammates up.

Thanks to Carissa Carbone for being one of the leaders of this program for the past four years. Her ability to play far taller than her 5’7” height at the net made her one of the most feared strikers in the state. Watching Carbone step back and get a running start on a kill was a marvel to watch as she towered over the seven foot plus net with a power usually reserved for much taller players. With a knowledge of the game and an understanding that talking to reporters after a win or loss is part of the job was never lost on the player they call CC.

Each of these players and coaches should be commended for their hard work and dedication to their craft which resulted in a season they will never forget, as will we.

Thanks for the ride Raiders, it was a terrific one for all of us lucky enough to be involved.

Take with you the memory that you all played the game like champions and as a result, cannot be considered anything less.







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