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UW is where Munoz’s heart is

Former Monroe volleyball star Kylin Munoz is happy she backed out of her BYU commitment, even though it means she has to wait a whole season before she can play for the Huskies.

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Kylin Munoz has found a home. Again.
The Monroe High School graduate and 2008 Gatorade State Volleyball Player of the Year is back in her home state, practicing with one of the top college programs in the country.
But the University of Washington freshman won’t be playing in an NCAA volleyball match anytime soon. Munoz recently lost her appeal with the NCAA to get out of a letter of intent she signed with Brigham Young University. As a result, she must sit out the 2009-10 season and will have just three years of college eligibility remaining when she becomes an official member of the UW team next fall.
“I definitely love Washington, and I’m so happy I’m back here,” the 6-foot-1 outside hitter said. “It was definitely the right decision.”
The UW was always on Munoz’s radar. But, coming from a family of Latter Day Saints, she chose BYU in part because of religion.
“And at the time,” Munoz added Friday, “I was excited to move to a different state.”
Munoz signed her letter of intent with BYU last November, but said Friday she started having “mixed feelings” shortly thereafter.
She now admits that the Cougars’ coaching change — from current Arizona State coach Jason Watson, who recruited her, to current BYU coach Shay Goulding — was a factor in her decision to back out of the commitment.
“Volleyball wasn’t the whole reason, though,” she said of her January announcement that she would not attend BYU. “I liked being close to home. (Coming to the UW) was right for me.”
Incoming freshmen who sign a letter of intent and then back out are obligated to sit out at least one season if they transfer to another Division-I school. But many programs let players out of their letters, depending on the circumstances.
BYU was unwilling to let Munoz back out, so her family appealed to the NCAA. Before the Huskies started fall practice, that appeal was turned down.
“I’m fine,” Munoz said when asked if there was any bitterness toward BYU. “I’m happy here now. As long as I’m happy here, I’m fine.”
And the Huskies are happy to have her. Head coach Jim McLaughlin vividly recalls the disappointment he felt when Munoz originally picked BYU over Washington. Munoz called McLaughlin to tell him personally that she wouldn’t be a Husky.
A few weeks later, while his Huskies were competing in the NCAA tournament, McLaughlin heard a rumor that Munoz was waffling on her original commitment. The UW’s compliance office had to call BYU’s compliance office just to get permission to talk to Munoz, and McLaughlin finally got his girl. He never asked why she backed out of BYU, nor did he care.
“I just needed to know that she was going to do what it took,” McLaughlin said. “And I’ll tell you what: I was fired up she was coming here.”
The most amazing part of the story is that McLaughlin actually had an open scholarship.
“I learned it a long time ago while I was at Pepperdine,” McLaughlin said, referring to the four years he spent as Marv Dunphy’s graduate assistant in the mid-1980s. “Marv always kept a scholarship, just in case. We’ve always done that (at the UW). ... Thank God we did. Who knows if she would have come here if we didn’t have a scholarship.”
Munoz got a sense of closure when she ran into BYU’s current volleyball coach at a national tournament over the summer.
“She was super nice and really supportive,” Munoz said. “She knows I’m happy here. It’s all on good terms.”
For Munoz, the strangest part of the process was being the center of so much attention. Her decision to back out of the BYU commitment was big news in both Utah and Snohomish County.
“It was a little weird being in the limelight, and people talking about you,” she said. “But I never really focused on it. I just tried to be myself and not worry about the extra stuff going on.”
While Munoz would prefer to play this season, she acknowledges there are benefits to sitting out.
“Redshirting kind of lets you ease into life — both as an athlete and as a student at U-Dub,” said Munoz, whose mother, April, played volleyball at Washington for one season in 1989-90. “College is definitely a change from high school, so it helps you adjust.”
McLaughlin said that Munoz would be “in the mix” for one of this year’s six starting positions, even though the fourth-ranked Huskies have five returning starters. But he knows he won’t have to make that decision.
Munoz can practice with the team and attend home matches this season but isn’t allowed to participate in games or travel.
“We’d love to have her (playing) for four (years), but we’ll take her for three,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll do what we do: We’ll work as hard as we can to make her the best volleyball player she can be. And at some point, we’ll stop worrying about how many years.”
And what kind of player can Munoz be?
“It’s hard to look into the crystal ball,” McLaughlin said when asked where he expects Munoz to be by the time she’s a senior. “But if I had one, I’d be looking at one of the top players in the entire country.”
Story tags » Huskies Volleyball

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