Devin Young graduated from Peters Township High School in 2007 in relative obscurity. He was footnote on the WPIAL Class AA boys volleyball all-star team as a third-team selection.
Players who graduate with those credentials rarely play at the NCAA Division I level. Young is an exception, despite a two-year hiatus from volleyball.
Young attended Brigham Young University after graduating from Peters Township and tried out for the volleyball team at the request of the Cougars coaching staff.
"I redshirted my freshman year, then went on a two-year [Latter Day Saints] mission in Long Beach, Calif.," Young said. "I was a full-time missionary for my church for two years. I was out every day preaching the gospel."
Young was preaching in an area known for beach volleyball, but he did not play during his two years of missionary work.
"It was tough giving up volleyball, especially since I was around it quite a bit," Young said. "It wasn't that big of a sacrifice. I enjoyed being a missionary."
When Young graduated from Peters Township, he stood 6 feet 6.
When he finished his mission, Young had grown to 6-9. He sat on Brigham Young's bench the next two years waiting for his chance. That chance came this season, and Young has made the most of it.
"I've learned so much from our coaching staff over the last two years," Young said. "I've been patiently waiting for a chance to play. It's been so much fun this year. It's great to know that we have a chance to win the national title."
Brigham Young is the top seed for the NCAA Division I semifinals, which begin tonight at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The Cougars will be making their fifth semifinal appearance, but first since 2004. The Cougars have won titles in three of their previous four appearances.
"We've come close to qualifying every year I've been here," Young said. "It's incredible to know that we need only two more wins to bring home a national title to Brigham Young."
Young, a junior middle blocker, is averaging 1.26 kills per set and hitting at 33 percent. He is also is averaging 0.98 blocks per set. He was voted to the all-tournament team at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
"My wife, my parents, and one brother are flying to California for the semifinals," Young said. "My younger brother Nathan [a sophomore at Peters Township] can't make it because he has a big match with Upper St. Clair."
Brigham Young (25-4) will face No. 4 seed Penn State in the semifinals. The Nittany Lions (23-7) are making a 15th consecutive appearance in the semifinals and 28th overall. The Nittany Lions won national titles in 1994 and 2008.
"We didn't play Brigham Young this year, but did play them in back-to-back matches on the road last year, and lost both," said Penn State coach Mark Pavlik. "Brigham Young has been ranked No. 1 most of the year, so it's no surprise to see them as the top seed."
Penn State also has a local connection, as Ambridge High graduate Nick Goodell is a 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore outside hitter for the Nittany Lions.
"Nick had a slow start this year," Pavlik said. "He never hit stride until a month ago. He's been playing outstanding volleyball the last four weeks. We're going to need every bit of production we can from him to beat Brigham Young."
Goodell is averaging 3.22 kills per set and hitting at a rate of 24.4 percent.
"We are a very young team," Pavlik said. "We have two senior middle hitters who are splitting time. The rest of our starters are underclassmen. We even have a redshirt freshman [Taylor Hammond] setting for us. Our talent is in our youth."
The Brigham Young-Penn State match is set for 11 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion and can been seen on NCAA.com. It is the second of two semifinal matches. No. 2-seed UC Irvine will play No. 3-seed Loyola-Chicago in the first at 9 p.m., and the winners will meet in the championship match at 9 p.m. Saturday.
First Published May 2, 2013 4:00 AM