After dropping a hard-fought game to second-ranked GNAC opponent Emmanuel College during their March 24 match, the Emerson men's volleyball team was upset. They had battled to within two points of the win, only to lose in the end. Head Coach Craig LeTourneau was quick to give his players some encouragement.
"I said 'Well, why don't you think about this. A month ago we would've been beaten 30-6 by this team. You had a chance to win and you can beat this team, you just have to find a way to get over that hump and win a game [against a tough opponent]," he said.
To look at the Emerson men's volleyball team's win-loss count is to see only half the story-the story of a young team that went from posting single-digit scores in their first game to competing closely with some of the best teams in the conference by the season's end.
Of the 12 men on the team's roster, only eight had competitive experience prior to playing this year, making the time they spent on-court of utmost importance.
This year, the Lions finished with 12 losses and only four wins, but the growth they've made over the course of the season is tangible.
Freshman Captain Steve Selnick, a long-time volleyball veteran, said the team became visibly better over the course of the season.
"I think I saw the team become much more confident about where they are playing on the court," he said. "The fact that we went from putting a messy play together to putting a play together that looks nice made it look like we were there to play and that we belong on the court with the team we were playing against."
Among the team's four wins this season were sweeps of fellow first-year team Albertus Magnus and fourth-year Lesley University. Selnick said posting these resounding victories raised the bar for the fledgling team.
"We were expected to win none of our games this year," he said. "Four in the terms of a record looks small, but in terms of a first year team, the other first year team in our conference didn't win one match. I think we really surpassed expectations with that one."
LeTourneau said that this year's victories, however few, will prove invaluable for the team's confidence, starting the team off on the right foot next season
"I think next year [we'd have struggled for] the first half of the season to really get through [to ourselves] that we can compete and win," he said. "I think these kids know they can compete and win, so when they come back next year hopefully they'll be back ready to go and in good shape."
LeTourneau said he hopes to bring in one or two recruits next year who have a combination of both size and skill. However, the current economic situation makes it difficult for him to recruit.
"It's tough now in this time in regards to the economic status," LeTourneau said. "I think that kids are tending to go with the [schools that give them a financial aid] package, where they can save money. There's definitely a number of kids that really want to come to Emerson, but it's based on things that are out of my hands."
Selnick said he feels the team's strong first season will pay dividends next year, regardless of how successful recruitment is.
"I think just by the fact that we'll all be going into practice where everyone will have at least a year of being on the court," he said. "I think we can just pick up right where we left off from in the beginning of this next season and take whatever successes that we were having this year, translate them, and hopefully amplify them for the coming years."