New volleyball coach brings fresh faces

Craig Letourneau is no stranger to building competitive programs. He helped revamp Rhode Island College’s volleyball squad, leading a previously mediocre team its first regular season title, not to mention its first appearance in a championship game in school history. Now, Emerson is hoping for some of that same magic.

Letourneau is the new coach of Emerson volleyball, and is extremely excited to be taking over the program full-time. This year, he will helm the women’s team, but plans are in the works to begin a men’s program by spring 2009.

“I was always part-time at Rhode Island College, so it will be nice to come in here full-time,” Letourneau said. “Being able to help start the men’s program is what really peaked my interest.”

Letourneau had many reasons he wanted to come to Emerson, but chief among them was the school’s standing as one of the finer academic institutions in the area.

“With the school in downtown Boston, and being the best at what it does academically is a huge draw in helping us recruit,” Letourneau said.

This fall, Letourneau’s challenge will be preparing a young women’s team to compete in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC). With Liz Camposeo as the only senior on the squad, Letourneau has an inexperienced team he hopes he can help make prosperous in the coming seasons.

“It’s great coming in to a young team. As a coach, it’s perfect,” Letourneau said. “With underclassmen, they’re going to be there at least two years, and you can mold them into the players you want them to be.”

Junior Molly Soboroff, a marketing communications major, said the team is improving greatly under Letourneau’s direction.

“We’ve accomplished a lot early, and as far as drills go we’ve stepped it up already,” Soboroff said. “We’re more aggressive and more focused, and our all-around knowledge of the game has improved.”

This year’s Lions feature only five returnees from last year: Allie Rosenberg, Janna Tonahill, Jennan Al-Hamdouni, Soboroff, and Camposeo. With such an influx of new talent to fill out the roster, Letourneau likes what he has seen and is confident the team can be competitive.

“These players listen and absorb very well,” Letourneau said. “They’re enthusiastic and understand where this program has been in the past. I’m looking forward to them taking [the program] to a new level.”

Among the new talent on this year’s roster are freshmen Sara Rutan, Jillian Tonello, Jalisa Rawding and Alex Brener. Rounding out the team are fellow newcomers Kit Lagraze, Kristina Ten and Erin Connolly.

Rawding, a TV production major, said the team seems to be coming together quickly.

“All the girls get along well because it’s a fun place to be,” Rawding said. “We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.”

The hiring of Letourneau as a replacement for former coach Ann Miklus, and the influx of young talent continues what Soboroff considers an enhancement of the volleyball program.

“Our program is developing. It started with the new gym, and now we have the new coach,” Soboroff said. “It’s definitely enhanced the program for the better.”

Coming off a season in which Emerson posted a 7-4 GNAC record but finished just 9-13 overall, Letourneau said he has a lot of work ahead of him to turn the program around. However, he is not daunted by the task at hand.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve had to take over the program and build it,” Letourneau said. “But I like doing that. It’s easier than you would think. As long as you’re willing to put the work in, the kids will buy into it.”