It was the third set. BYU men’s volleyball was behind 14-9 when Craig and Lorraine Lybbert wandered into the Smith Fieldhouse for the first time on Feb. 12, 1993. The couple had recently moved into the area and was driving the streets in search of something to do. They saw something was going on in the Smith Fieldhouse and decided to check it out. The building was packed, but the Lybberts found seats on the upper level on the north side and settled in to see what all the excitement was about.
In the pre-rally era game, the Cougars had already lost the first two sets to Pepperdine, so this was their last chance if they wanted to take home a win for the night. It was set point for Pepperdine, but BYU held on and made a major comeback. BYU won the third set and the following sets to take home a win for the evening (3-2).
“We were hooked that night,” BYU volleyball fan Craig Lybbert said. He said he enjoyed the faster pace of volleyball. Craig and Lorraine Lybbert have made a special effort to attend every home BYU volleyball game since that February night in 1993, even if it means arriving early to get their favorite seats.
On Saturdays, Craig was known to arrive up to 10 hours before a game. His extra time at the Smith Fieldhouse gave him the opportunity to get to know the teams and coaches over the years including some of the parents of the current BYU women’s volleyball team.
“Now we’ve got the kids of a lot of these players that we followed very closely,” Craig said. “Morgan and Whitney’s mom was a great volleyball player, so we’re close to them and their parents.”
The couple has also played an important part in the recruiting process. Over the years, potential non-Latter-day Saint recruits have specifically been seated next to the Lybberts during volleyball games.
Felipe de Brito Ferreira, the current BYU men’s team middle blocker, was seated next to the Lybberts when he was considering playing for BYU. Since Ferreira joined the team, Craig has taken photos during matches for the player to send home to his family in Brazil.
It wasn’t until the 2019 BYU men’s volleyball season that the Lybberts first received assigned seats in recognition of their dedication to the men’s and women’s teams. They still arrive early out of habit, but they don’t have to block out their entire Saturday whenever BYU has a game. Craig can be seen standing in the back row of the lower level on the north end of the court, right in front of the screen, with his arms folded. He intently watches every play. Lorraine prefers to sit but also watches the game closely.
The Lybberts aren’t BYU volleyball’s only superfans. Martin Wright sits on the upper level on the north end of the court. At the beginning of every home match, he shouts, “Eat ’em up Cougars,” directly after the prayer. This is a tradition he started at basketball games when he was a BYU undergrad.
“The only quiet time is right after the prayer, so I do it right after,” Wright said. “The players wait for it and expect it. You notice when the new freshmen come that they don’t know that, but throughout the season everybody gets quiet right after the prayer.”
Wright is also known as “ace man.” He created signs to celebrate every BYU ace, and holds them for the crowd to see.
“It is the fastest point in any sport if you think about it,” Wright said. “There’s no recognition for it. It goes unrecognized.”
Recently, Wright added orange OPK (overpass kill) signs, which he hangs in-line with his ace signs. He said he created the new signs in recognition of the middles because they don’t serve.
The loyal fan has attended every BYU volleyball game he could in the last seven years. He plans a trip every year to travel with the teams for an away game. Last year he traveled to Portland for a women’s volleyball game.
The Lybberts and Wright pointed out other fans who have supported BYU for years and said they chose volleyball as their favorite sport because of the fun atmosphere in the Smith Fieldhouse during volleyball games, the fast pace and the kindness of the volleyball players. In return, the volleyball players have expressed their gratitude for loyal fans.
“The fans are awesome,” outside hitter Madelyn Robinson said. “You can feel the energy. It’s nice being home because everyone is lifting you up a little bit.”