Not the final set for volleyball five
The end of the academic year and a 3-1 loss to Wentworth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship game marks the end of one men’s volleyball class’ undergraduate experience. This crew, including setter Jesus Garcia, opposite Riley Grenier, outside hitter Brenden Joyce, libero Rande Monahan, and middle blocker Jan Baranowski, was the first recruiting class brought in by head coach Jeff Vautrin.
“I think a good word that would describe the four years would be progress,” Joyce said. “I think throughout our four years, our coach has definitely helped each of us individually improve as teammates, leaders, and players. He’s also helped the program move forward. This year we went to Cali, and that was cool.”
In addition to trips such as the trip to California, Vautrin and the seniors have also added greatly to the success and reputation of the program through their performances on the court. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons before the class’ arrival, the men’s side tallied 22 wins and a losing GNAC record. This allowed Vautrin to build the program as he grew as a coach.
“I think it was a really great experience because we kind of had the opportunity to grow together and to learn together,” Grenier said. “He really cares about all of his players. He wants every individual to succeed on and off the court, so he’s done things for me, such as how he set up internships and helping me look at opportunities for after college. And obviously, all the volleyball stuff he has done on the court, but I think just that kind of relationship that is pretty special that you don’t get with every coach.”
This recruiting class came in with great acclaim featuring the Hawaiian Garcia and six-foot-eight-inch Baranowski. Recruits such as Garcia and Baranowski set the tone for how Vautrin continues to recruit.
“I took a really big risk moving so far away from home, but I think it paid off in the end,” Garcia said.
“The community was one of the reasons why I chose to come to Lasell. On my recruiting night, the feeling I was trying to get was just like a family-built community because that’s what I grew up with my whole life.”
Their careers hit a major bump almost immediately, with their first-year season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. They finished the season 10-12 and went 4-6 during the also shortened 2021 season.
Games weren’t the only loss the group felt, however. During the pandemic years, fellow recruits Charles Lavoie, Sean Delaney, and Garrett Linnell left the university. “Our first two years were really something special. Just the group of guys that we came in with became eight guys, and then we’re down to five,” Garcia said. “That’s kind of mainly due to COVID honestly. Pretty much the reason why they’re not here anymore.”
“But you know, COVID kind of sucked the life out of that for a little bit. But these last two years having to be able to play full seasons has been such a great opportunity overall. So really happy, really for the last four years,” Garcia added.
In the past two seasons, the turnaround has been clear. In 2022, the Lasers were the GNAC runners-up, finishing with a 22-9 record. 2022 also included a home 3-1 upset of Springfield College. In 2023, they finished 20-13. This success, along with the prospect of an NCAA tournament bid, has drawn Monahan, Baranowski, Joyce, and Garcia back, who all hope to play a graduate year with their extra eligibility.
“I think for me, personally, it’s like, I want to come back and leave my mark a little bit,” Garcia said. “I just want to make sure I leave the program in good hands.”
For Grenier, 2023 will be the end of his collegiate career. He competed in 69 matches, tallying 47 kills and 62 digs.
Grenier will miss the team and the relationships he’s built along the way. “I think it’s definitely the guys. I mean, these guys have been my family the last four years,” Grenier said. “Leaving them it’s definitely gonna be tough not seeing their faces every day not being able to be like, ‘Hey, let’s go to the gym’ or ‘Hey, like, let’s go shopping.’ ‘Let’s play video games for two hours.’ ‘Let’s go to practice.’ We pretty much do everything together.”