Erik Sikes became a defensive specialist while playing for the Santa Margarita boys’ volleyball team from 2012-14.
He joined a varsity program that struggled to compete in the Trinity League, but graduated three seasons later after leading the Eagles to a league title and earning league most valuable player honors.
Sikes took his skills to BYU, where he’s continued to make his team better when on the court.
Now a senior libero for BYU, Sikes hopes to help the Cougars to a third straight NCAA Tournament final appearance in early May.
Sikes has overcome two major knee injuries over the past three years to lead the Cougars at 2.01 digs per set as a sophomore, and lead the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation at 2.47 digs per set last season.
BYU was ranked No. 2 in the nation behind unbeaten Long Beach State in mid-March of this season. The Cougars conclude their regular season at No. 5 Pepperdine on April 5 and visit No. 3 UCLA on April 7.
Sikes was leading the Cougars at 1.77 digs per set through March 15, though injuries have again become a challenge.
The 6-foot-2 Sikes was an outside hitter when he started high school, but decided to switch to libero–a defensive specialist who wears a different colored jersey than his teammates–because he didn’t feel he could succeed against taller players at the net.
He was named first-team all-Trinity League as a sophomore, repeated that honor as a junior while also earning most valuable player honors for Santa Margarita. As a senior, he set school records for digs and serve-receive percentage.
Sikes had scholarship offers from USC and UCLA, but made the surprising choice to sign with BYU. As a non-LDS student-athlete, Sikes said there was an adjustment period.
“It was tough at first,” Sikes told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It was a lot different than what I was used to, but I knew the coaches were good and the teammates I had were going to be really good, and I could see myself improving here and helping them and contending for national championships, so I stuck with it.”
During the final practice of his freshman season, Sikes tore the ACL in his right knee after colliding with some courtside bleachers.
He healed in time for his sophomore year and helped the Cougars to a 27-4 record and an MPSF title. He had a team-high eight digs in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, helping BYU to a four-game win against Long Beach State, but the Cougars were swept in the finals two days later against Ohio State.
In October of 2016, Sikes injured his right knee again, this time tearing the meniscus.
“I was obviously devastated, especially the way I did it,” Sikes told the Daily Herald. “The way I tore it was very simple. I just passed the ball and felt tears. I had the option of having surgery in October or trying to play on it. The coaches were very supportive and said, ‘Let’s get it done right away.’ “
That slowed the start of his junior season, but he recovered enough to help the Cougars return to the NCAA finals with another team-high eight digs in a three-game sweep of Long Beach State. Ohio State was waiting again in the finals, however, and posted another sweep to win a second straight title.
Ohio State was ranked No. 9 as of mid-March of this season, so a third straight encounter in the finals seems unlikely.