Senior starters Brenden Sander, Leo Durkin and Price Jarman each played their final volleyball match in a BYU uniform last week as they lost to UCLA in the national semifinals in Los Angeles.
Disappointment on the national stage isn’t new for this trio, however. Over the past two years, the three advanced to the national championship and lost to Ohio State both times.
Durkin and Sander, along with coach Shawn Olmstead, struggled to express their emotions in words during the press conference following the Final Four loss.
“My time at BYU — it’s, I don’t have any words to explain it,” said Sander. “It’s been the most amazing experience of my life. I’ve met some of the best friends I will ever have, and they are the greatest guys in this whole world — even the coaches.”
He said he expects to remain close friends with his teammates for years to come, and he expressed gratitude for the lessons he’s learned at BYU.
“I wouldn’t have done it anywhere else,” Sander said. “I would go into battle with these guys 10 times out of 10, I don’t care. These are my boys right here.”
Olmstead said he first met Sander on that same court at UCLA several years earlier when the player’s mother pleaded with Olmstead to convince her son to go to BYU.
Sander’s older brother, Taylor, also played at BYU and has since gone on to play professionally and for Team USA in the Olympics.
“He’s accepted that challenge, and every single match we played in his four-year career he heard it: ‘You’re not like your brother.’ And he just got better and better and better,” Olmstead said of the younger Sander. “He is as good as his brother, and he’s an outstanding young man.”
Olmstead began coaching the men’s team in 2015, and these three seniors have been an integral part of every squad he has led. Their departure, along with two assistant coaches leaving for other programs, brings about the end of an era for BYU volleyball.
“I’m super excited for both of them. I’m 100 percent supportive throughout the entire process,” Olmstead said of his assistants. “Both Luke (Slabe) and Jay (Reyes) have had a handful of opportunities that they’ve passed over the years — and they should, they’re deserving. Two of the best coaches in our game, hands down.”
Slabe and Reyes are both alumni of the BYU volleyball program, something Olmstead added doesn’t happen very often in the coaching world.
“I’m glad it’s happening the same year I leave,” Jarman said of the departing coaches. “Because if they would’ve left before I did, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Jarman and Durkin are both from Las Vegas, and they began playing club volleyball together in high school.
“From then on, I was the setter and he was my middle,” Durkin said. “And we’ve just kind of been on the same teams and on the same road.”
When Price went down with an injury midway through this season, Olmstead elected to go against common practice and have him continue traveling with the team.
“We just know the value of Price and the leadership, the example he is,” Olmstead explained. “The guys feed off that, so it was important for us to travel him through his injury, and keep him as engaged at every practice around the team.”
Jarman is consistently the most vocal leader on the team and gets his teammates pumped up after every small victory.
“We have some great senior leadership, and their dedication and their time over the summer to this team and to their improvement manifested itself throughout this season,” Olmstead added. “Those guys have been our rock.”
All three seniors earned AVCA All-American honors, with Sander being named First Team and Durkin and Jarman earning Honorable Mention.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Durkin said of Jarman. “It’s crazy, because after this I’m not going to play any more volleyball with him.”
The team falls into good hands with freshmen Gabi Garcia Fernandez, who won National Newcomer of the Year, and Felipe de Brito Ferreira. Both started in the semifinal match and will be a big part of the team going forward.