When BYU’s Southern California transplants complain about the cold weather in Utah, sophomore middle blocker Miki Jauhiainen just laughs.
Jauhiainen (pronounced Yow-he-eye-nen) is from Tempere, Finland, where the average January temperature is minus-7 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) and ice hockey is played on every pond and lake in the region.
The 6-foot-8-inch Jauhiainen played ice hockey growing up. It was expected in Tempere, known as the hometown of Finnish ice hockey. The first ice hockey match in Finland was played on nearby Lake Pyhajarvi in 1928 and the national ice hockey hall of fame is located nearby.
“Ice hockey is a big thing in Finland,” Jauhiainen said. “But my dad and my older sister played volleyball, and I liked it the most.”
Jauhiainen has adjusted well to the “warmer” climate of Provo. The sophomore earned MPSF/Molton Defensive Player of the Week honors after collecting 12 blocks (11 block assists, one solo) in the opening matches against Loyola-Chicago and Lewis University. With the graduation of two-year starter Joseph Grosh, Jauhiainen has joined returner Price Jarman on BYU’s front line and has performed well.
“Miki fits in perfectly with our team,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “He’s an outstanding young man and an outstanding student. He’s just a great personality. He always has a big smile on his face and really enjoys playing volleyball. He really embraces that, enjoys his teammates and enjoys being part of the school.”
BYU learned of Jauhiainen through assistant coach Luka Slabe, who played and coached professional volleyball in Europe and coached the Slovenian national team.
One of the coaches on the Finnish national team was a former college player at the University of Hawaii, where former BYU coach Carl McGown was once a volunteer assistant. Jauhiainen was coming up through the ranks in the Finnish national program and the coach, through McGown, contacted Slabe.
“I wanted an education and I wanted to play volleyball at a high level,” Jauhiainen said. “I knew the U.S. was the place to go. The Finnish coaches said BYU was a really good place and I would really like it here.”
As a freshman at BYU, Jauhiainen started five matches and played in 54 sets, logging 21 kills and 38 block assists. Now he’s moved into a more regular role in the BYU rotation.
The international connections worked well during the 2018 recruiting period, also bringing Puerto Rican Gabi Garcia Fernandez (6-7 opposite hitter) and Brazilian Filipe de Brito Ferreira (6-9 middle blocker) to Provo.
“The international recruiting kind of goes in waves,” Olmstead said. “We get kids that really understand what it means to come here and to know English and all the testing they have to do. They need to understand it from a pretty young age because if not, it becomes too late to backtrack. We’re constantly recruiting over there and it just worked out that right now we’ve got a handful of them.”
BYU, which lost to Loyola-Chicago and defeated Lewis last weekend in Provo, is off to the Midwest this weekend for matches at No. 14 Ball State and top-ranked Ohio State.
While the focus has been on Ball State first, BYU’s history with the Buckeyes will make for a very interesting matchup on Saturday. Ohio State has won the past two NCAA titles, sweeping the Cougars in the championship match both times.
“They (BYU) are more of a physical team, where we’re more a technical team,” Ohio State’s Nicolas Szerszen told The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper. “We still have to improve in a lot of technical components of our game. They might be more ready than us right now, but we’ll just see how it goes, give it our best, and play hard.”
BYU won’t look past Ball State, which has a quality program under long-time coach Joel Walton.
“All of our attention and discussion with the team has been about our first opponent,” Olmstead said. “At this point in the season we spend all of our energy as a staff on Ball State. But we’ve made sure we’ve compiled everything to be prepared for the quick turnaround from the Friday night match to Saturday.”
Jauhiainen was to the point when asked about playing the two-time defending national champions on Saturday at St. John’s Arena.
“We’re going there to go beat them,” he said. “We’re not going to go there to lose.”