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Adam Fondren, Deseret News

No. 2 BYU men's volleyball hopes to send 2 assistant coaches off with top honors

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Posted - May. 3, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.


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PROVO — Seven years ago, Jaylen Reyes transferred to BYU after redshirting a season at Cal State Northridge and hoped he could get a little playing time while finishing his degree in exercise science.

The move sparked a four-year career in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, where Reyes tallied 765 digs and 228 assists over four years while helping the Cougars to back-to-back MPSF championships and consecutive NCAA Tournament bids in 2013 and 2014.

Then, when his career was finished, Reyes got another call from head coach Shawn Olmstead. The former BYU women’s volleyball coach—a former libero himself who won a national title at BYU in 2004—wanted to add Reyes to his new staff with the men’s team.

How could he say no, Reyes thought. And the rest is history.

"When I first came there, I never thought I’d be here for seven years and get to play as much as I got to play," Reyes said before leading the Cougars to Thursday’s national semifinals against UCLA. "This has been such a great opportunity Shawn has given me, to stay with the group. If you had told me seven years ago that I would play here for four years and then coach for three more—and then go on to a big-time women’s program—I honestly wouldn’t have believed you."

This week will be Reyes’ final coaching stint at BYU, at least for the foreseeable future. The former BYU all-time leader in the rally scoring era in games played (431), who finished second in digs, will accept a job as an assistant coach at Nebraska following the NCAA Tournament.

The Cougars will tip at 8:30 p.m. MT against MPSF rival UCLA in their third-straight NCAA Tournament semifinal appearance. The match will be streamed live on NCAA.com. Saturday's final will play on ESPN2.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, Reyes admits. But no one blames him for leaving his alma mater to coach at one of the biggest women’s programs in the NCAA—one that has won four national titles and produces All-Americans almost every year.

Not even Olmstead could say something against it—and he might want to, as he’ll also be replacing fellow assistant coach Luka Slabe in the offseason. Slabe has accepted a job with the U.S. women’s national team.

Reyes coordinated many of the Cougars’ recruiting efforts, while Slabe came to BYU after coaching at four professional teams in Europe—and the Slovenia men’s national team from 2013-15.

"Luka brought a ton of experience from high-level volleyball, as a head coach, which helped me a ton," Olmstead said. "Jay brought a ton of energy and excitement, a young buck coming in to transition from player to coach. He’s done a remarkable job, and we can’t thank either of them enough."

Most importantly, though, are the relationships the duo have built with the players. Reyes coached four AVCA All-Americans prior to this season, and Brenden Sander, Leo Durkin, Price Jarman and freshman Gabi Garcia Fernandez joined the list in 2018.

"Jaylen and Luka are a couple of my best friends. They've had a huge impact on my life, both on and off the court—and they've made me a better volleyball player," said Jarman, a senior from Las Vegas. "I'm excited for the opportunities they have in transferring to the women’s game.

"I'm really glad this is happening this same year I leave. If they had left before I did, I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done."

Reyes wasn’t initially convinced about leaving BYU. But Nebraska is a rare job, even in the women’s volleyball game—where jobs are more plentiful and generally higher-paying than in men’s volleyball.

John Cook has won four national championships at Nebraska, and his most recent loss was assistant coach Tyler Hildebrand, who left in February to become the director of USA beach volleyball. Cook looked far and wide for a replacement—and found it in men’s volleyball, working for his alma mater that also happens to consistently be one of the five best teams in the country.

"We wanted someone who was willing to crawl here just like Andy Dufresne in the movie 'The Shawshank Redemption,'" Cook told omaha.com at the time. "Our players and the Husker Nation will love his energy, passion and ability to teach the game."

Reyes knew he eventually wanted to cross into the women’s game. He just didn’t think it would come so soon in his coaching career.

"I didn’t want to get out of here," Reyes said. "I love BYU. But once Nebraska came calling, it was hard to say no."

Reyes grew up in a volleyball family, the son of former Hawaii-Hilo coach Tino Reyes. A first-team all-state player in Hawaii as a senior at Kamehameha High School in Honolulu, Reyes left the islands to go to Northridge but never played for the Matadors before transferring to a rival MPSF institution.

It turned out to be the best decision of his life, he said.

"I've been surrounded by awesome people, ever since (former BYU associate head coach) Rob Neilson and Chris McGown took a chance on me as a transfer from a smaller program," Reyes said. "The best decision of my life was deciding to come to BYU."

BYU in the VolleyFour

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