By Ryan Fitzgerald & James Payne – Co-Editor-in-Chief & 1851 Staff
Senior Day: an annual college sporting event commemorating the seniors on each team for their hard work over four years. However, the men’s and women’s basketball teams celebrated Senior Day with no four-year seniors on either roster. The women’s team had no seniors while the men’s team had three; Armin Omanovic, John Powell, and Yordan Villalon. None of the three played at Lasell for four years.
Villalon and Omanovic have been Lasers for three years (Omanovic only played two) and this season was Powell’s first at Lasell. Coach Aaron Galletta likes to keep the same routine no matter what the situation is.
“As a coach, we don’t look forward to senior day for two reasons because our guys are out of routine and this is our last senior’s home game,” Galletta said. “I’m a big guy on routine and keeping everything the same. [But] senior day is an opportunity for the guys who have been with our program to be recognized and have their friends and family there to watch them.”
Villalon has played on the team for three years after transferring to Lasell from a school in Miami. Before that, the senior had to travel from his native country of Cuba with his family to begin a life in this country. Galletta has enjoyed watching him grow since arriving in Newton.
“[Yordan] was a great guy for our program being a senior captain for us,” Galletta said. “All the stuff that he’s done off the court as well, being a leader and the stuff that he had to do just to get to the United States and stay here with his family. Not only that, but going to a school in Miami and finally coming up here, it was a big transition for him. It’s a different culture and a different environment down there and coming up here, he was really lost his first couple months as a student athlete. To see him when he first got here and to see him now it’s a complete change and I couldn’t be more proud or happier for him.”
But for all three seniors the feelings are mostly the same for Galletta. “Coaching is just about relationships. So you’ll have a deeper relationship with someone who’s been here two or three years. But I thought Powell did a real good job of coming in and fitting in right away. And even though his eligibility has run out I look forward to still developing a relationship with him and still making sure he’s on track. Anybody who puts on that uniform and goes out and plays for me or our program, you’ll have gratitude toward them.”
While the women’s team did not have any seniors on the roster this year, so the team instead used senior day to give attention to the Play4Kay Initiative.
“The Play4Kay initiative was started by the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, named after Kay Yow, the longtime women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State. Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and defeated it twice, before finally passing away from it in 2009 after being diagnosed with it for the third time. She was a founding member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association [WBCA]. In 2007 Kay Yow partnered with the WBCA and The V Foundation [Jim Valvano Foundation] to start the Kay Yow Cancer Fund to help raise money to fund research for battling women’s cancers,” Coach Todd Montana said.
The Play4Kay Initiative has grown to where almost every women’s basketball program in D1, D2 and D3 take part, according to Montana. “Having an annual Play4Kay event started at Lasell prior to my arrival, but I will continue to be involved with it as long as I am here,” Montana said.
“I believe it is important for our student-athletes to join in a cause that is larger than themselves or our individual program,” he said. “The more we can have our student-athletes demonstrate that they are willing to do something for others, the more I believe they will inspire other people to do the same. We’re always looking for ways to ‘Pay it Forward’ and this is one small way we can do that with the women’s basketball program.”