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  • Writer's pictureJack Bienvenue

Men’s Volleyball ready for rocky road


Junior outside hitter Jordan Shinaut attacks a ball in a February 26 match against Vassar. Photo courtesy of Matt Johnson

Heading into the 2024 campaign, the Men’s Volleyball team had one goal in sight - A Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) title. After a heartbreaking loss to Wentworth in last year’s GNAC Final, a potent mix of veteran leadership and youthful fire, a Lasers run back to the GNACs looks inevitable. 


Eight recruits entered the year ready to make their mark and join their established core, a squad hungry for a championship run after falling just one game short. First-years, such as opposite hitter Aiden Norris and middle blocker Cody Bonilla, have already made significant impacts on the floor for the Lasers, playing with a spark that perfectly compliments the seasoned veterans.


The season started as expected for Coach Jeff Vautrin’s squad, with two convincing sweeps over Elms and SUNY POLY. The real test came in a three-game stretch against ranked teams. Despite all three resulting in a loss, the Lasers showed heart, battling with #5 Juniata College and #13 St Johns Prep for five hard-fought sets. 


“As competitors, you always want to go up against the best,” junior outside hitter Jordan Shinaut said. “These minutes will be nothing but beneficial to all these young guys in the future.” 


The month of February was set to be one of, if not the most important stretches of volleyball the Lasers had all year with five more ranked opponents, including a rematch with the team that ended their championship aspirations less than a year ago, Wentworth. 


Unfortunately for the Lasers, adversity struck during their last ranked matchup. During the closing minutes of a neck-and-neck five-set battle with #4 Springfield, Shinaut went down with a devastating leg injury. It was a tough pill for the Lasers to swallow, as it seemed they had just started to find a groove. Coming off a sweep of #6 Vassar, they are now without one of their most productive offensive players for the foreseeable future. 


“It definitely has been hard,” Shinaut said. “But the support of my teammates has been great, and I just try to make sure they all keep a positive mindset on and off the court. I just want to help any way I can.”


Now, entering the final stretch, the Lasers find themselves at a do-or-die point in their quest back to the GNACs, and the clock is ticking for them to make a run. 


“Our mindset is to approach these conference games the same way we approached our ranked games,” Shinaut said. “Although the season hasn’t gone as planned so far, all we’re focusing on now is our conference matchups ahead and ending the season playing our best ball.”


There may not be a better stretch of games to turn their season around, as their last eight games come against conference opponents, teams they know all too well. 


“We know that some of these teams we see again down the line, so I think seeing how we stack up now is important,” Sophomore outside hitter Jasper Schultz said. 


The road ahead won’t be easy, but the Lasers are filled with motivation, determined to avenge their previous championship defeat. The combination of experienced players and newcomers who bring new perspectives make up a team whose collective spirit can spark a legendary run for the program.


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