TORRINGTON >> Three days after Torrington girls volleyball (6-1) took revenge on last year’s NVL nemesis Seymour, undefeated Granby Memorial (5-0), from the NCCC, delivered the Red Raiders’ first loss of the season 3-2 (25-14, 20-25, 18-25, 25-18, 18-16) in a match the Raiders seemed to have sewn up twice.
Six-foot-five Granby hitter Marieke Van der Mark, a Netherlands transplant headed for Division I Baylor next year, had 27 kills and 9 aces for the match, stunning the Raiders in a dominant first game.
But the Raiders, who now have wins over the only two NVL teams who beat them last year, are made of stern stuff themselves.
“We had to shore up our blocks and get low and ready,” said Torrington Coach Christine Gamari, who also reminded her girls to shoot for certain zones in the Bears’ defense in an effort to keep it away from Van der Mark.
The strategy worked for two games, leaving Torrington, the first team to win a game against the Bears this year, a game away from taking the match.
Torrington senior setter Jayleen Colon stood at the heart of the storm, calmly dealing out 31 assists for the match with surprise kills mixed in while standing as a rock at the service line (2 aces) when it was her turn in the rotation.
“I have to show my aggression on the court and at team meetings,” she said. “But my calmness keeps the team collected.”
On the other side, Van der Mark’s shadow was at least as long.
“We wanted to win it; we wanted to fight for it,” she said. “It was our best match so far.”
Game four was a tipping point as the teams battled through ties at 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18.
In the final series, Van der Mark was at the service line, delivering an ace, but otherwise allowing her teammates to win the game.
Granby setter Cailin Tennis (32 assists) came through with a kill, then faked a set and hit a spot, then a final kill for the game.
“Last year, the team just fed (Van der Mark) and our captain,” said Bears Coach Dave Sprowson. “We’ve gotten over that.”
Tied at 2-2 but undaunted, the Red Raiders were a point away from winning the penultimate 15-point fifth game on the strength of Colon’s calm.
Senior Raider hitter Jolie Fox (9 kills, 1 block, 2 aces) broke Torrington into a 10-10 tie with a kill, putting Colon on the service line.
Colon sent over two aces, followed by another Fox kill, then one more ace, 14-10.
“No excuses, we needed one more point and we didn’t get it,” said Coach Gamari. “They outplayed us when it mattered most.”
If Van der Mark intimidated the Raiders in the first game, she was back full strength for the final points, starting with a block and a kill.
Back-to-back Torrington mistakes tied it 14-14, but the Raiders took the edge on a Granby mistake.
Van der Mark tied it with a kill, then another for a 17-16 advantage. A Torrington mistake handed Granby the final score.
“At the end, we were playing not to lose, instead of to win,” said Gamari. “We were pushing the ball instead of hitting it, feeding it into their offense.
“It’s a learning experience. We won’t see someone of (Van der Mark’s) caliber anywhere else.”
Torrington sees the Bears again in a month for the final game of its regular season.
Meanwhile, the Raiders visit 2-4 Watertown today.
The Bears host 0-6 Classical Magnet.
Granby Memorial 3, Torrington 2
(25-14, 20-25, 18-25, 25-18, 18-16)
At Torrington High School
Highlights: GM – Marieke Van der Mark 27 kills, 9 aces; Cailin Tennis 32 assists; Jalyn Brown 5 blocks. T – Jayleen Colon 31 assists, 5 kills, 9 digs, 2 aces; Carissa Carbone 13 kills, 1 block, 8 digs, 1 ace; Jolie Fox 9 kills, 1 block, 2 aces; Candyce Jewett 13 digs, 1 kill, 1 ace.
Records: Granby Memorial 5-0; Torrington 6-1.