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The Raiders in the Chase for the Class M Volleyball Title. Part Two. Jayleen Colon, Ali Dubois, Gabby Ballesteros and Nina Lestrud.

POSTED November 18, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: The Torrington girls’ volleyball team is on the brink of doing something truly historic, namely bringing home a State Championship on Saturday when they play Seymour for the Class M title.

If accomplished, it would mark the first girls’ team in school history to reach the highest of mountain tops. Girls’ sports began at THS back in 1975, over 41 years ago.

Head coach Christine Gamari, a Raider graduate, has developed a team that closely resembles her drive, motivation and aggressive style of play and today, she talks about what makes her rotation of eight players so special.

She talks about each of her special group.

We will divide this segment up into two sections. One will run today, Thursday, November 17, the next tomorrow on November 18.

Next Up: Seniors Jayleen Colon, Ali Dubois, Gabby Ballesteros and Junior Nina Lestrud.

Jayleen Colon

THE SKINNY: 3 year Varsity member, 3 Year Starter

QUOTABLE: “Jay brings a lot of athleticism, good hands, and leadership abilities to the team.” Gamari said.

“Jay wants the ball. As the setter, she knows that it is her responsibility to touch the 2nd ball in our offensive system and she'll run wherever she needs to in order to do so. She wants to always contribute in a positive way to the team, whether it be offensively or defensively.

“I'm most proud of Jay's maturity throughout her 4 years in the program, maturing into a leader who understands my high expectations and can help communicate those to her teammates.  She listens to what we (the coaching staff) say and she knows when adjustments/improvements need to be made.  Her hustle and willingness to play defense/dive on the floor has also been a great addition to our team play.

“Good setters need to be athletic, smart (read what's happening on the other side of the net, understand what is happening on your side of the net), and quick decision-makers. Jay does all of these things and has a great relationship with her hitters.  She does her best to get them the ball where they like it and can be the most productive for us.” Ali Dubois THE SKINNY: 3 year Varsity Team Member, 2 Year Starter

QUOTABLE: “Ali brings a TON of hustle to the court.” Gamari said.

“She exudes such a willingness to abuse her body to dive for balls and she picks up A LOT of volleyballs that you think are going to hit the ground.  She is a great passer, always playing calm, cool and collected.  Her serve often puts the other team on their heels and in tough spots to run their offense.

“This year I know that she has committed herself fully to all volleyball commitments, and I appreciate that. As a multi-sport athlete she has already been exposed to pressure-filled situations, so that is very helpful when those arise in our sport.  She also expects to win, and that confidence is instrumental to our success.

“Ali is a competitor. She wants to play hard, and she wants to win.

“I'm most proud of the positive energy that Ali brings to the team.  She really looks like she is having fun out there! She is always asking for more... more chances to attack the ball, more time out on the court playing defense or receiving serve... Her excitement and enthusiasm is infectious out on the court."

Gabby Ballesteros

THE SKINNY: 2 Year Varsity member

QUOTABLE: “Gabby is a great communicator out on the court, which has improved as the season has gone on.” Gamari said.

“She is a good passer and a defender, and over the course of her career we have used her in a variety of positions, so she is a great utility player.

“Gabby wants to always contribute positively when she is out on the court.

“I'm proud of how far Gabby has developed as a volleyball player. She had very limited experience when she entered into our program.  I just learned she was cut from the middle school team her 8th grade year!  Yet she stuck with it, and with us, and now she is a very well-rounded volleyball player.

“Last year we moved her around A LOT to fill holes in our lineup, and she was always so willing to do so, even if it was in a big game.”

Nina Lestrud

THE SKINNY: 1 Year Varsity Member, 1 Year Starter

QUOTABLE: “Nina brings athleticism, height, and intelligence to our team.” Gamari said.

“As a former setter, she was trained to be a "thinker" and consider what is happening on the other side of the net, which has helped her tremendously as a hitter and blocker.  She is also an extremely reliable and thoughtful server.

“She has only improved as the season has progressed!  She is a well-rounded volleyball player. Nina is a competitor who wants to be out on the court.  She knows that she can help out and contribute positively to the cause.

“I'm so proud of how far Nina has progressed as a middle hitter this year. 

“The conversation during pre-season/tryouts went like this: "Hey Nina, we think that we want you to be a middle hitter instead of a setter for us because of your height and ability to hit the ball. What do you think?"  "Sure, Coach. No problem." So we've spent the entire season teaching Nina the position (which Kyle has been instrumental in).  She is so coachable and so competitive that it has really worked out well for our team. My favorite moments are when she sometimes sets the ball in the course of a volley... you don't see too many middles who can also act as setters!

“I have no idea what Nina's role will be next year. Will she be a middle? Will she be a setter? We have to look at our team personnel, growth during the off-season, and make decisions.  However, I'm confident that Nina will be successful in whatever role she fills next year.

Eight remarable players, one remarkable head coach.

It's almost game time.... 

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