On the road again. And again. And again. And again.

by Chris Eyer / Beacon Staff • March 3, 2011

Newton, Brookline, Beverly, Nashua, Weston, Chicopee, Cambridge.

No, this isn’t a list of possible spring break destinations — it’s a list of the places the Emerson men’s volleyball team has recently competed.

The Lions played Lasell College in Newton on Feb. 4, kicking off a 19-game stretch through which Emerson has, and will continue to, play 18 of its 19 games on the road.

Traveling to away games is tough enough on a professional athlete but, the players said, it can be even more of a strain on student-athletes.

Jeff Ackerstein, a junior outside hitter, said he has to juggle sports on the road with his studies.

“It’s a journey before every game starts. We have an hour warm-up before each game, and sometimes we have to leave two-and-a-half hours before the game. It takes its toll,” said Ackerstein, a post-production major.

Ackerstein said the team practices for two hours almost every day in addition to the games, which sometimes clash with his academic schedule.

“Unfortunately, I had to miss a game because I had class and it was a class I couldn’t miss,” he said.

And of course, the players are often also involved in other extracurricular activities. For Eric Doherty, a sophomore digital post-production major, having a well-planned schedule is essential.

“I’m involved in volleyball, but I’m also involved in a ton of other things,” Doherty said. “You have to be good at planning ahead. I live by my iPhone calendar.”

The extensive schedule seems to have taken a toll on the Lions, evidenced by the scoreboard.

Emerson is 4-7 in away games, and 0-3 in games played at neutral sites. After notching four wins in their first six games, the Lions went on their extended road trip and promptly dropped ten straight contests. Over this period, they managed to win only two sets.

“We feel more comfortable at home,” Ackerstein said. “We get down there and warm up right away, and our fans are there. We’re all a little looser when we play at home.”

Playing so many games away may seem like a disadvantage, but head coach Craig Letourneau explained that playing such a large percentage of games on the road is not unusual in the GNAC.

“Last year we had a ton of matches at home. It rotates every year,” said Letourneau. “Also, we play a lot of tournaments and tri-matches. We do the best we can with [our schedule].”

Emerson competed in the Endicott College Tournament in Beverly, Mass. earlier this season and lost all four games. They will play in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Tournament in Cambridge this weekend.

While playing four games in two days on a weekend may be arduous, Coach Letourneau stressed the importance of accepting challenges.

He pointed to some of the competitors Emerson will face in the upcoming tournament. MIT has made the post-season in its conference for six straight seasons. Endicott has a modest record of 12-9, but last year made the North East Collegiate Volleyball Association quarterfinals.

“It’s very helpful to play in tournaments against teams that, on paper, we know are going to be better than us,” Letourneau said. “You want to play better competition so you get better. You don’t get better by having an undefeated record and only playing teams you know you’re going to beat.”

Emerson managed to come up with wins against Regis College and Elms College in the final week of February.

“[Having a lot of road games] can be frustrating, but we all knew the deal going into the season,” Doherty said. He cited the 3-2 win over Elms as the start of a possible late-season run. “I hope we can look back on the season and say, ‘That’s the point when we turned it around.’”

The streak of away games will end with a double header against Albertus Magnus and Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I. on March 12. The Lions will then end their regular season with a four-game homestand. The final two games will be GNAC matchups against Mount Ida and Lasell.

Evan Sporer, assistant sports editor of the Beacon and member of the Emerson volleyball team, did not edit this article.