Volleyball team hopes to surmount JWC, Rivier

In their two most recent seasons, those matchups came in the semi-final round, and in 2008 it even came down to one final set – which the Lions dropped, falling 3-2 to JWU.,Since 2004, the Emerson women’s volleyball team has made the postseason five straight years. They matched up against either Rivier College or Johnson Wales University in postseason play each time, and each time they were defeated.

In their two most recent seasons, those matchups came in the semi-final round, and in 2008 it even came down to one final set – which the Lions dropped, falling 3-2 to JWU.

The results seem grim, but it makes 2009’s goal that much simpler.

“The goal is to get over the hump,” said Head Coach Craig Letourneau, who is entering his third season at the helm of the program. “We need to beat one of those teams, and then I think that it will open things up for us because then we’ll really believe that we can beat anybody.”

It’s not that much of a stretch either – Emerson is coming off a season in which they beat just about everybody, finishing 10-2 in the Greater Northeast Athletic Conference.

Unfortunately, much like seasons past, their run came to a screeching halt in a semi-final game against Johnson Wales, which has become somewhat of a nightmare for the Lions.

“We beat ourselves last year,” said senior Captain Erin Connolly. “Every year we just can’t quite get over the hump to beat them. Last year, we made it to game five against JWU and just beat ourselves. It’s definitely become a rivalry with those two teams, but I really think we have the chemistry this year to beat them. I think things will be different.”

With that single goal in mind, the Lions have certainly made some changes. Among those changes are first-year outside-hitters Kelsey Scanlon and Alexa Krakowiak. Both are expected to immensely impact the Lions’ outside game, which has been one of the few aspects Letourneau hopes to see an improvement in.

“We needed our outsides to really pick up the slack and contribute in a good way offensively,” said Letourneau of his perimeter offense. “Last year, on paper, we were definitely a team that could win it. This year, on paper, we’re definitely a team that can win it. It’s just a matter of stepping it up in certain areas.”

One of those areas remains the outside position – something that the Lions feel more confident about heading into the season. A main reason for that has been the emerging skills of sophomore outside Maddie Breeland, who was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Days Inn of Campton Tournament in Plymouth.

Now, holding a 7-1 record , it appears as if Breeland’s elevated play and a fresh-faced outside led by Scanlon and Krakowiak are just what the Lions needed.

“We’re really happy with our record so far,” said Lauren Zaniboni,

a junior middle. “I think we’re coming together nicely. It’s definitely going to be a good season.”

Still, despite the improvements and changes on the outside, the Lions remain a ball-control team that has a thirst for postseason play, and the adjustments have been minor. After all, finishing 10-2 and 11-2 in their past two seasons respectively isn’t exactly cause for alarm.

But come the postseason, there will be only one thing on the Lions’ minds.

“We want to play them so bad,” said Zaniboni of Rivier and JWU. “We’re all really excited. I think we have a great chance to beat them this year. I hope we get that chance.”

And for Connolly, there’s a little bit of an added fire.

“It’s my senior year so this is my last chance,” she said. “I definitely think we have what we need to beat both of them.”