The women’s volleyball team consists of a staggering 17 underclassmen. The Lasers have no seniors on the team and only one junior, captain and libero, Isabelle Babcock.
The Lasers’ youthful roster is no surprise to head coach Jeff Vautrin. “I immediately knew what I was walking into and what I had to do to rebuild this program,” Vautrin said.
The challenges of coaching an inexperienced roster are evident to Vautrin.
“They are a super talented group, but there's a lot to go over in such a short amount of time to prepare us for
tough teams and conference play as well,” Vautrin said.
The team has not seen ill-effects from coaching a young roster. “He [Coach Vautrin] knows that we're a young team, but I think he's still treating us as if we’ve been there for a couple of years,” first-year libero Maddie Caro said.
The Lasers have three captains, Babcock and sophomores Tori Scambray and Madalyn Scully. Despite Babcock’s academic year, this is her second season due to the cancellation of the Fall 2020 season because of the pandemic. The captains were voted into their roles by their peers at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
“We have a nomination process and then kind of a presentation process,” Vautrin said. “They go up in front of the team; they do a presentation on why they want to be captain, and then I allow the team to vote.”
Vautrin gave advice to his young captains. “Mostly being there for your teammates and being able to make them feel comfortable enough to come and talk with us and tell us about their frustrations and what they think that we could do better,” Babcock said.
The impact that Babcock and the sophomores have on the first-year players is not lost on the junior captain.
“I think all the freshmen, in general, look up to us a lot and even only being a year apart,” Babcock said. “Especially as captains taking leadership, and they definitely feel comfortable coming to us for the most part about issues or questions they might have. So that's really fun and cool to see this year.”
“They've definitely built a stronger bond together to show us freshmen how to stay poised and confident when we are playing, especially during practices and games,” Caro said.
Despite their inexperience, the team is holding itself to high expectations. “We were seeded number four in our conference. Our goal is to definitely achieve that again this year or better,” Babcock said. “We have had a lot of injuries on our team, which is kind of holding us back a little right now. But I think we're able to work through it and hopefully be the fourth seed or better. That's our goal. Definitely.”
The Lasers enter October with an 8-10 overall record, but are 2-0 in Great Northeast Athletic Conference play.
“When we focus, we get some good wins, and when we don’t focus, we get some bad losses,” Vautrin said. “Those lessons will be learned, and hopefully, down the road, we’ll be better for it.”
With an abundance of young talent, the future of the program is bright. “We're all growing as a program together. So definitely a lot of development, I think over the next few years we're gonna improve immensely as a team and a program altogether, so I'm really excited to see it,” Babcock said.