Stars aligned: Boyce and Cougars on the verge of national championship

Published: Friday, May 3 2013 5:15 p.m. MDT

BYU's Ryan Boyce battles with Pepperdine's Nikola Antonijevic in NCAA volleyball in Provo Thursday, March 28, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) BYU's Ryan Boyce battles with Pepperdine's Nikola Antonijevic in NCAA volleyball in Provo Thursday, March 28, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood typically glorifies the extraordinary tale of the star athlete or goes to the other extreme, but somewhere in between sits the overlooked role player. On the verge of capturing its first national championship in nine years, BYU's Ryan Boyce fits that bill and is looking for his own storybook ending.

The senior setter on the men's volleyball team would rather sit in an ice bath than do an interview. When he steps on the court, however, he's an integral part of the Cougars' team.

“I think it helps to have a guy that’s not prone to these emotional swings,” coach Chris McGown said. “Like when all of a sudden ‘the world is ending’ or ‘woe is me’ type of thing. Being a little more grounded is in his nature, and it’s a nice attribute to have at that position. His leadership has been key to a lot of our success.”

What's made Boyce important to BYU's team is what got him there in the first place: hard work. Boyce was recruited by Penn State and Pacific, but the player, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, decided there was only one school for him.

A tournament in Salt Lake City and a win versus BYU head coach Tom Peterson sealed the deal for Boyce's collegiate future.

“Ryan ended up winning the award for best setter of the tournament," said his father, Gary Boyce. "When we got home, we had an email from Tom. All it said was, ‘Ryan will be a Cougar.’ I can’t tell you how exciting that was for the whole family."

For Boyce, that decision would play a huge part in the next seven years of his life.

“BYU was very accommodating for missionaries to go and come back," he said. "You don’t necessarily have a spot when you get back, but I just felt like I needed to go on a mission. Everything has panned out the way it’s supposed to, though. I met my wife, played for BYU and still was able to serve a mission.”

“All he wants to do when he’s done playing is to coach,” his father said. “With Alan Knipe (team USA coach), Carl and Chris McGown, they are all helping him and preparing him to be a great coach.”

Life plans aside, the national championship task at hand is always on his mind.

“That’s what we want to do,” Boyce said. “We want to win a national championship. It’s with the process in mind though. We understand that every day you have to work. You have to get better. And you have to do the things that will make your teammates better. So yeah, it’s on our mind, but for sure we understand it's going to be a process."

Were Hollywood to write his story, it wouldn't end with the star becoming world famous — mainly because he doesn’t want to — but the stars have aligned in a different way.

He serves his church, plays for the school of his dreams and found his wife. With a baby girl on the way and on the verge of a national championship, it just goes to show what can happen when you align the stars yourself.

Jonathan Boldt is a sports writing intern for the Deseret News covering the Utah Valley. He can be reached at jonboldt@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jboldt24 — www.boldted.com

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