TORRINGTON >> In every high-level girls volleyball match, there’s a point in which the mental side of the game outweighs the physical.
Torrington girls volleyball beat Tolland 3-0 (20-17, 25-23, 26-24) Friday evening in a Class M Quarterfinal match proving the deeper into the tournament the Red Raiders get, the more that’s true.
The No. 1-seeded Raiders (24-1) battled No. 8 Tolland 18-6) through two close wins at Torrington High School, then fell behind 15-7 in Game Three of the best-of-three series.
Ahead 2-0, the easy mental rout is, “Okay, we’ll get them next game.”
Torrington isn’t built that way, nor are Tolland’s Eagles.
The Raiders came back from a 2-0 deficit in the regular season and a 19-10 deficit in Class M’s second round.
Now they faced a team that came back from a 2-0 second-round deficit against Woodland to get here.
“All we wanted to do was win that third game,” said Eagles coach Vinny Cianfarani.
“We’re mentally stable,” said Torrington junior Nina Lestrud. “We think we’re never winning, no matter what the score is; you can’t think you’re up.”
“We just dig in as a team and try,” said Carissa Carbone after their comeback against Weston in the second round.
Now it was time again.
The first step back was a kill by junior Lauren Gaghan after a monster volley full of impossible digs on both sides.
“We’ve seen good teams all year; every team we lost to (including two in Class LL) are still playing,” said Tolland’s Cianfarini.
Torrington took the next four points in a row on two kills and a block by Jolie Fox (18 kills, 1 block, 2 digs) and a serving ace by Lestrud.
“They seem to not shy away from pressure,” said Raider coach Christine Strawson. “They believe in their abilities. They have seen some of the best teams and they understand they belong on the same court.”
At 15-12 Tolland, the battle of strong wills blared through the gym.
Tolland’s Tyler Webster (3 kills) stepped up for a kill; the teams traded errors. The Eagle lead was 21-16, four points away from another would-be comeback trail for Tolland.
Carbone (10 kills, 19 digs) stepped to the service line while four straight Eagle errors and a kill by Gaghan drew the Raiders even, 21-21.
Now it was a mortal struggle: ace by Carbone, kill by Webster, 22-22; kill by Gaghan, error by Torrington 23-23; Kill by Fox, Torrington error 24-24.
Finally, a kill by Fox and an ace by Gaghan tipped the match for Torrington.
“We gave all we could,” said Coach Cianfarani.
“It’s so much more fun to play teams that give us back the same energy we have,” said Fox in praise of the Eagles. “We love playing teams we haven’t seen before.”
Tuesday, the semifinal round brings a neighbor. No. 4 Northwestern (21-2) swept No. 5 Killingly to set up a neutral-site 6 p.m. match at Canton High School.
“We have some familiarity with them,” said Coach Gamari. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
No. 1 Torrington 3, No. 8 Tolland 0
(20-17, 25-23, 26-24)
At Torrington High School
Highlights: Tol – Amanda Koch 3 kills, 8 digs; Tyler Webster 3 kills. Tor – Jayleen Colon 33 assists, 13 digs, 1 ace; Jolie Fox 18 kills, 1 block, 2 digs; Carissa Carbone 10 kills, 19 digs; Nina Lestrud 3 kills, 2 digs, 2 aces; Candyce Jewett 11 digs, 1 ace.
Records: Tolland 18-6; Torrington 24-1.