Those seniors have been a major part of the two previous seasons, so their dedication ... to this team ... it's manifested itself throughout the season. —BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead
PROVO — A lot of teams claim a bond among teammates that is special, but in the case of this year's BYU men's volleyball team, the claims seem to check out — particularly among the team's relatively small, but strong senior class.
Gathering for interviews at the Marriott Center for a final practice session before leaving for Los Angeles to compete in the NCAA Tournament, senior Price Jarman reflected on the bonds he's formed with teammates, and particularly with fellow senior Leo Durkin.
The two Las Vegas natives have been close since playing on the same club teams since they were both 15, and both will close out their careers together this weekend.
"We met trying out for the same club team and we've literally been on the same team ever since," Jarman said. "Minus the two years (serving) our (LDS Church) missions it's been 10 straight years playing together."
Durkin recalls Jarman taking to the court in those first tryouts as a "big, goofy 6-foot-4 guy who just hit puberty, and who was taller than everyone," as opposed to himself, who was just 5-foot-8 at the time. Jarman has since stretched himself into a 6-9 middle blocker, while Durkin stands 6-4 and has manned the primary setter position for the past three years.
Both have contributed heavily throughout their careers, but perhaps an equal impact has come via their leadership.
Case in point: Jarman, who was sidelined for about a month late in the regular season with a hand injury.
"We don't ever travel injured guys," said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. "We never have, but we just know the value of Price, and the leadership, and the example he is. The guys feed off that, so it was important to keep him engaged and around the team."
Team participation requires a lot of time spent among teammates, with some of those same teammates growing wary of one another's presence, at times. But in BYU's case, the friendships — particularly the friendships among Durkin, Price and fellow senior Brenden Sander — has remained strong, and has even caused Durkin to get in a little trouble at home, at times.
"It makes my wife angry sometimes because she'll shoot me a text, 'Hey, are you coming home yet?' and I'll still be in the locker room, just chatting with the guys," Durkin said. "When you've played a lot of volleyball together, and some of the matches we've been in — the road trips — you just can't help but have that kind of brotherhood."
Being so close can benefit play on the court, as teammates become familiar with one another, which helps everyone play more in sync.
"It's a lot of trust," Durkin said. "You can get in some weird situations and with that trust, you just keep working together to get through it."
The situation the Cougars are in isn't unique, as they've reached the NCAA championship match in both of the last two seasons. The goal going out is obviously to get over that hump and take home BYU's first volleyball national championship since 2004.
"Rejection can breed a lot of obsession," Durkin said. "The losses we've had have definitely contributed more to the nature of our volleyball team, and Price, (Sander) and I have (worked) just for the desire we have and to get back (there) again. So I think it's played a huge part — the losses."
Regardless of what happens this weekend, with BYU scheduled to play the winner of UCLA vs. Harvard on Thursday in the semifinal round, Olmstead will remember this year's senior class as a special one.
"Those seniors have been a major part of the two previous seasons, so their dedication ... to this team ... it's manifested itself throughout the season," Olmstead said. "... They're a great group, and as coaches, we're having a blast with these guys. I know coaches say that all the time, but we've really enjoyed being around this group, and these guys want to accomplish a little bit more."