The BYU men’s volleyball team is 17-2 on the season and is riding an 11-match winning streak.
Looking at the metrics, the season is going well for the No. 3 Cougars.
However, looking beyond the stats will tell a different story. All one has to do is glance at the Cougar bench. The roster is filled with team members in braces or unable to play because of injuries.
All-American Ben Patch sits with a groin injury. All-American Brenden Sander stands with his jacket on, trying to give his knees some rest. 2016 starting libero Erik Sikes stands, his knee held together by a brace. Price Jarman plays with a brace over his newly dislocated thumb. Kiril Meretev plays through recurring ankle injuries with his heavy-duty ankle brace resembling a cast.
Coach Shawn Olmstead said it’s all part of the game.
“You’ve always got to talk to your guys about being prepared and being ready,” Olmstead said. “At any moment, a lot can change.”
All-American senior Jake Langlois got injured before the Cougars’ match against McKendree and was unable to travel to their next game vs. CSUN. Langlois’ first game back was Jan. 27 against No. 7 UC Irvine where he recorded 17 kills.
“I was just trying not to suck,” Langlois said.
Langlois has stepped up and filled a greater role as other players are unable to compete. Since returning from his injury, Langlois has collected 220 kills and a .331 hitting clip on the season thus far. He also leads the team in aces with 30.
The adversity has given many different players the opportunity to step up and play.
“It’s different without Ben and Brenden, but we have guys who can take their spots,” Langlois said. “Obviously they’re not going to be doing the same stuff, but it’s fun to have everyone play.”
Junior Tim Dobbert has been filling the opposite position for Patch. He has 99 kills on the season. Kiril Meretev, who has 35 kills, has also stepped into the outside hitter position making some big plays at critical times.
“Tim has done a nice job and Kiril is an energizer bunny,” Olmstead said. “He brings a lot of good energy, and Tim brings a lot of consistency.”
Freshman outside hitter Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga and freshman middle blocker “The Finnisher” Miki Jauhiainen saw time on court.
Junior setter Leo Durkin said the team has taken a positive outlook on the situation.
“The good thing about it is there’s a ton of guys who have been getting a ton of opportunities and guys who have really stepped up in practice,” Durkin said. “Believe it or not, the quality of play in practice has gotten better and improved and been really noticeable. It’s been a positive.”
Though battling injuries is a big test for any team, the Cougars continue to set and reach high goals for themselves.