By Pat Carbone – 1851 Contributor
Photos by Pat Carbone
As the spring semester is underway, so is the men’s volleyball team’s quest for a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship. The 2022 season will be the first time in three years the team has gotten the chance to compete for the title due to COVID-19.
Following a two match sweep at the athletic center on February 19, the team improved their overall record to 8-5 overall and remained the only undefeated team in the GNAC at 4-0. Before the beginning of the season, the team was voted to finish third overall in the GNAC preseason poll, finishing behind Wentworth Institute of Technology and Rivier University. With Saturday’s triumph, the team leapfrogged Wentworth, ranked number five in the nation for division three, and Elms College, to claim the first place spot in the conference.
Head Coach Jeff Vautrin (‘17) has high expectations and could not be more excited to show the GNAC what the Lasers are made of this year. “I think this year is the showcase of Wentworth vs. Lasell once again. Looking forward to the upcoming years, I think that’ll be the way it is for the near future,” said the third-year head coach.
Vautrin also described how his team has improved since their last time stepping onto the court and how they’ll use those attributes to their advantage this season.
“This year, our strength is definitely our size,” said Vautrin. “Across the board, we’re pretty much at every position 6’6 or taller… He mentioned how the team’s blocking and hitting abilities have become a great advantage on the floor, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Part of that great defense is grad student Dillon DeSouza, who is playing his final season as a Laser. “My final season means a lot to me. I have been playing sports since I could walk, so the fact that this is my last go of an organized sports season is very surreal,” said DeSouza.
Born in Enfield, Connecticut, the Rehab Science major feels mixed emotions during his final year. “It is exciting because I see myself playing at such high competition, but still getting better every day,” said DeSouza. “It is scary because I will no longer be looking forward to another season.”
While some players are finishing their long careers, others are just beginning. This is the case for first-year Lee Naea, who studies radio and video production. Moving across the country from Pearl City, Hawaii, the 6’0 tall Naea will be playing the position of outside hitter for the Lasers.
“I was excited with the whole team, we’re pretty good. Look at the size of us, the whole front row Jordan [Shinuat], Tucker [Merritt], Theo [Zaharewicz] they’re all about 6’6 plus,” said Naea.
Along with his head coach, Naea has some pretty high expectations for his team this year. “I guarantee we might win the GNAC [championship] and be in the NCAA tournament,” said Naea.
This season should be one to remember for the men’s volleyball team. Hailing from eight different states across the country, these athletes will come together and try to capture their first GNAC title since the spring of 2015.