This is the fifth in a series of weekly BYU Women's Volleyball Team player profiles.
BYU junior outside hitter April Varner is a Cougar, but it hasn't always been that way.
A Volleyball Magazine "Fab 50" recruit out of Skyline High School (Salt Lake City), Varner initially took her volleyball skills to perennial NCAA volleyball power Long Beach State. It was there as a redshirt freshman that she experienced a surreal run to the NCAA Championship match, where the 49ers suffered their only loss of the season to Stanford for a 33-1 finish in 2001.
Entering her sophomore campaign the following spring, Varner desired to be closer to home and her family. BYU welcomed her with open arms and Varner has been a key component of BYU's championship hopes ever since.
Now, in her second year as a Cougar, Varner has not only enjoyed volleyball at BYU, but the camaraderie the team has is unlike anything she has ever experienced or heard of.
"We all get along," Varner says. "We all like to be around each other on and off the court. I know a lot of other girls on other teams that don't have near the friendships we have on our team.
"There are so many great examples to me, it's nice to be able to hang out beyond volleyball."
Varner's life includes much more than a tunnel vision spotlight on volleyball; she's a focused individual who strives to balance volleyball, school, family and friends. Which isn't meant to say her volleyball goals are in anyway diminished - Varner has definite volleyball goals for this season and for her career.
"I want to constantly improve," she says. "I know I can help this team succeed and we have a lot of goals. I want to win a conference championship, reach the national championship game again and I know we all want that as a team."
Although not blessed with one truly dominating player, the Cougars rely on contributions from everybody on the court to win. According to Varner, BYU has two things going for it that some, perhaps more talented teams, may lack.
"We have such great chemistry and we have a lot of heart," Varner says.
In her last match before being felled by her injury last season, Varner put down a career-high 23 kills at Wyoming. Robbed of being able to participate fully in the spring because of a foot injury, Varner professes to be fully healthy now, and is willing to contribute in anyway possible.
With two other talented outside hitters in Kim Wilson and Lindsey Metcalf, there has been a rotation in playing time this season. For all her exterior niceties, though, Varner is a dogged competitor with all-around game.
"We all put in so much work to improve to help the team win," Varner says. "We all want to start every match, and it would be nice if we all could. Even if we aren't starting, though, we all have to be ready to play at anytime. That's the way I'm approaching it."
Since the true-blond Varner seemingly changed her identity by becoming a brunette earlier this season, teammates Lexi Brown and Erica Lott have also added expression in their hair color. Varner describes it as a simple expression of variation.
Varner loves the serene environment of BYU and has made life-long friends by participating in a sport that she loves to play more than ever. She has come to learn the true definition of a team and what it means to play together. For her it's as much about friendships as it is about volleyball.
Favorite movie: Shanghai Noon
Favorite music group: Counting Crows
Favorite food: I basically like all food but I love ice cream and popsicles
Favorite actor: Owen Wilson and Sean Connery
Favorite actress: Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan
Favorite sport other than volleyball: Definitely waterskiing but anything that has to do with water and in the winter, snowboarding is great!
If I could add one team to the schedule it would be: Arizona
Opponent you would most like to beat: Utah
Who is the best player you've ever faced: I would have to say Tayibba Haneef, I played with her at Long Beach State. She is 6'7" and an amazing athlete.
A friend from another college volleyball team: I played at Long Beach State for two years and I am still good friends with one of my teammates, Erika Chidester.
What current or former BYU athlete I most enjoy watching perform: I had a chance to watch Sunny Mahe play this last spring while I was injured on the sideline. She is so fun to watch because you can tell she really loves the game as well as the players.
Who has had the greatest influence on your volleyball career and why: Joy McKenzie was an assistant coach at Long Beach State my redshirt freshman year. The way she plays volleyball is the perfect example of the kind of player I want to be.
Most impressive person I've ever met and why: I would have to say equally my Dad and Mom because they both are the greatest example to me.
One place you would like to visit and why: New York City, I have heard wonderful things about it.
What is your favorite hobby away from volleyball: I like to do lots of things but one of my favorites that I don't get to do enough is scuba diving. I also like to play the guitar, knitting/crochet, read and of course kicking back with friends.
What is your most memorable athletic achievement or moment: Winning the state championship when I was a sophomore in high school, but going to the NCAA National Championships in 2001 was an amazing feeling that I hope to feel again before I am done with volleyball.
What gets you pumped up before a match: I love the competition and the opportunity to show what we have been working so hard for because every match is one step closer to achieving our goals.
My advice to young volleyball players: I want young players to know that anything is possible and to not give up. If up keep working hard, it will pay off one way or another.
Which reality show would you want to be on: I don't think I would ever go on a reality show.
What is the best book you've ever read: My absolute favorite book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I've already read it twice and I think I could keep reading it over and over.
If you could only keep one possession, what would it be and why: I think it would be a toss up between my journals and photographs.
What is one thing you want to do in your lifetime: I want to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and when I am old I would like to serve a mission with my husband.
What is your biggest fear: My biggest fear is saying "What if?" I want to make sure I that I am constantly learning from the good and bad of life and becoming a better person. I want to make sure that I take the opportunity that is mine and make the most out of everyday.
How did you spend your off-season: Last spring I spent my time doing rehab and getting back into shape, spending time with friends and family, and unfortunately homework.
What do you want to be doing in 10 years: Hopefully, I will be married and pursuing goals and dreams as a person and as a family.
If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be: Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and President Hinckley
Interesting fact most people don't know about me: Most people don't know that I love to oil paint.