By Pat Carbone – Copy Editor
On April 9, the number two seeded men’s volleyball team traveled to first seeded Wentworth Institute of Technology to battle for the 2022 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship. The Lasers came up short as Wentworth claimed victory in three sets and move on to the DIII NCAA Tournament as GNAC Champions.
In the GNAC Semi-Finals, Lasell knocked off number three seeded Rivier University 3-1, while Wentworth took out fourth seeded Elms College with ease, winning 3-0.
The Lasers came out with a strong 7-3 lead in the first set of the championship match until the Leopards responded with seven straight points. Wentworth continued to create distance in the score, taking the first set 25-16.
While the Leopards had a sizable 24-13 lead in the second set, the Lasers managed to shorten that lead with six straight, bringing them within five. However, Wentworth capped the point streak at six and took the second set 25-19.
The third set was a back and forth battle between both teams. Coming within two points, the Laser allowed six straight, giving Wentworth the 25-17 win and the title of GNAC
“After the game, I just talked to the guys about like ‘live in this moment, understand this moment and then work so hard in the off-season that you’re ready for this moment next year,” said head coach Jeff Vautrin on giving words of wisdom to his squad after the championship game.
Although they did not finish where they had hoped, Vautrin is taking many positives from this season.
“We had a team meeting in between the Nichols and Sacred Heart game, going over what it means to be a college athlete, what we want to get done this year, our goals. Once we set those realistic goals for both our team, ourselves, and our timeline of what we want to accomplish. That really helped us gel as a team,” said Vautrin.
Despite a second-place finish, this season is one to remember for the squad. Coming off the team’s best season (22-9) since 2017, several personal awards were handed out.
First-year Alex Weinhaus was named Third Team All-GNAC while also named to the All-Rookie Team made of the best first-year players throughout the conference.
Freshman Jordan Shinaut managed to capture First Team All-GNAC and All-Rookie Team honors. In addition, Shinaut was crowned GNAC Rookie of the Year with 299 kills, 60 blocks, and 365.5 points. On April 19th, Shinuat was named an All-American Honorable Mention.
Juniors Jan Baranowski and Brenden Joyce were both awarded Third Team All-GNAC.
The team’s star setter, Jesus Garcia, was not only named to the First Team All-GNAC but was also awarded All-Sportsmanship Team in the GNAC.
Coming off his stellar rookie season, Shinaut plans on continuing his success and helping his team return to and claim their first GNAC Championship since 2015.
“I think my coach is the biggest reason for my success this year. He has gone over and over how to do my job until I knew what I was doing wrong every time I did it, and it helped me get a lot better throughout the year,” said Shinaut, describing the reasons behind his dominant first season.
Finishing this season with 256 kills and 312.5 points, junior Brenden Joyce is looking for ways to keep the Lasers moving forward, heading into his senior season.
“My mentality going into my senior year is that I want it all. I think I can speak for the team when I say that: ‘I want a GNAC championship, I want to play in the NCAA tournament, and I want to win the NCAA Championship,’” said Joyce.
Even though the ending of the season didn’t go the Lasers’ way, the future shines bright for the team. With eight first-years on this season’s roster, the team looks to mold them into forces to be reckoned with for the other GNAC teams. Baranowski, Joyce, and Garcia will all return for the senior seasons as they look for one more crack at a chance to bring the GNAC back to Lasell.
“Our starting seven is coming back, so we’ll have the exact same team as next year… For our recruiting class, as of right now, we have three committed. [They’re] very accomplished recruits,” said Head Coach Vautrin, giving us a glimpse into what is to come for the Lasers for the 2022-23 season.Vautrin also wanted to thank the
Lasell University students for attending the game and cheering on the team, making it “a great atmosphere to be a part of.”