The support we get from our great fans is amazing and I'm sure it will be amazing again for what will probably be my last year. —Ben Patch
PROVO — BYU senior Jake Langlois was stumped by the question and for good reason.
When asked to compare the Smith Fieldhouse atmosphere to other venues, the 6-foot-10 outside hitter struggled to provide a response. "There's really nothing out there like what we have here. Nothing really close," he said.
The No. 4-ranked Cougar men's volleyball team (1-1) will debut on its home floor this weekend, taking on McKendree (0-4) Thursday and Saturday, while hosting Concordia Irvine (4-3) on Friday, and will be decided favorites in the matches. The prospect of returning to the Smith Fieldhouse immediately brings a smile to players' faces, particularly those who may be playing their final season at BYU.
"The support we get from our great fans is amazing and I'm sure it will be amazing again for what will probably be my last year," said 6-9 junior Ben Patch. "I love playing in front of so many family and friends. There's really nothing better than playing at the Smith Fieldhouse."
The Cougars began the season with mixed results — sweeping No. 6 Lewis last Friday before falling to No. 11 Loyola Chicago the very next night.
The three matches start at 7 p.m.
A DIFFERENT PATCH: Patch leads the team in kills with 42 while bringing the same standout athleticism to the net that he's shown since arriving at BYU in 2013. But despite returning, some fans may have a hard time recognizing him, initially.
"I decided to dye my hair blond because it's something I've always sort of wanted to do," Patch said. "So much attention was put on my hair last year, so I decided to cut it a lot shorter and we'll just see how it goes."
Cosmetic changes aside, Patch has also put in time to fine tune other parts of his game. While working out this summer with Team USA, the Provo native has worked hard to improve the consistency in his serve and other areas.
"Volleyball is about so much more than just hitting it as hard as you can, so I've worked very hard to improve all parts of my game," Patch said. "I've also worked on the mental part and feel I'll be more relaxed and will have a much better mindset, which should help a ton."
MIDDLE FOCUS: Patch and Langlois represent just two of BYU's standout pin-hitters from the outside, as players like Brenden Sander and Tim Dobbert look to add to the team's apparent strength. A potential problem arises when opposing teams see where the Cougars' overwhelming strength lies, then discover they're not nearly as threatening in other areas.
For this reason, BYU coach Shawn Olmstead is working hard to develop a group of lesser-known middle blockers.
"I like the dynamics of those guys. They're big, they're strong, they're physical, and so if we can pass the ball, we'd like to go more to the middle," Olmstead said of his middles. "We need to do that to open up the offense because guys are going to be focused outside on our pins."
Leading the group of middle blockers is 6-9 junior Price Jarman, who has good match experience. Others options include 6-7 freshman Miki Jauhiainen, who is from Finland, and 6-7 senior Joseph Grosh, who, like Jarman, has logged a decent amount of match experience.