In an inaugural season, the 2024 Deseret News boys volleyball players of the year each found their footing, stood out on the net and led their teams to regular season and postseason success.

While not all of them ended with a state championship, they each made their mark on their teams, and the season, and stood among the best in the state.

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Here’s a look at the 2024 Deseret News boys volleyball players of the year.

Pleasant Grove’s Ethan Hillyard hits the ball with Lone Peak’s Freddy Dayton and Ethan Wright going up to block during the high school 6A boys volleyball championship at the UCCU Center in Orem on Saturday, May 18, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

6A Player of the Year

Ethan Hillyard, Pleasant Grove, S/OH/MB/OPP, Sr.

Pleasant Grove played in the first-ever sanctioned boys volleyball game, and ended the season with a 6A championship.

Ethan Hillyard was there the entire way to assist Pleasant Grove.

Hillyard’s malleability is what makes him such a potent player. Without any setting experience, Hillyard volunteered to play setter and ended the season second in the state with 1,041 assists this season.

High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 6A All-State team

Despite being willing to play setter, Hillyard also stepped in as an outside hitter, middle blocker and opposite hitter when needed. Alongside his assists, Hillyard also tallied 153 kills with a 40.3 kill percentage, 37 aces, 58 blocks and 243 digs.

“Ethan was such a fun player to watch, and played the game in ways differently than any other player I’ve ever coached before in my more than 20 years of coaching,” said Pleasant Grove head coach Dave Neeley.

“He volunteered to play setter for us, despite having zero experience in that position. So we created a unique system for him, which allowed him to lead our offense as a setter, but also score points as an attacker from the left side, middle, and right side of the court.

“After one match late in the season, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Ethan is doing things that no other player in the country is doing.’ Ethan played a pivotal role in helping us become not only the best team in Utah, but one of the top-25 teams in the nation in our inaugural season.”

Olympus plays Skyline during the quarterfinals of the 5A boys high school volleyball state tournament at the UCCU Center in Orem on Thursday, May 16, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

5A Player of the Year

Soren Jepsen, Olympus, MB, Sr.

While Olympus came up shy of a 5A state championship after losing to Bountiful in the 5A semifinals, Soren Jepsen stood out as he helped lead the Titans to a perfect 11-0 region record and a Region 6 title.

Jepsen was a major threat on the net for Olympus and tallied 395 kills, a .355 hitting percentage, 39 aces and 237 digs.

High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 5A All-State team

“Soren is a fantastic volleyball player and an even better person, both of which make him a dream to coach,” said Olympus head coach Brett Peterson. “Soren’s height certainly helps create some mismatches on the volleyball court, but the time he’s spent improving his game over the last few years is his real competitive advantage.”

“We ask a lot from our middles at Olympus, and Soren has absolutely stepped up to the plate to become one of the most efficient offensive players in the state to go along with his extraordinary defensive abilities.”

The 6-foot-10 middle blocker is signed to play for BYU and plans to play for the Cougars following a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Orem’s Benjamin Hone (25) hits the ball against Pine View during the 4A boys volleyball state championship held at the UCCU Center in Orem on Saturday, May 11, 2024. | Isaac Hale, Deseret News

4A Player of the Year

Benjamin Hone, Orem, OH/S, Jr.

Orem had a dominant season with an 8-0 Region 8 record and lost only one game to a 4A opponent. Benjamin Hone was a versatile asset to the Tigers that was able to fill in at both setter and outside hitter positions.

High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 4A All-State team

“Ben is someone who lives and breathes volleyball,” said Orem head coach Bill Sefita. “Ben works daily pushing his personal and team limits, setting high expectations.

“Ben played setter position most of his volleyball life, but Orem needed him to be an outside hitter and he dominated in this role. Ben is a leader both on and off the court. He is a humble and thoughtful player, but also a force to be reckoned with. I’m excited to follow his offseason preparation as he prepares for his senior year, season 2025.”

Hone played 93 sets and recorded 304 kills, 27 aces, 89 assists, 27 blocks and 226 digs. Hone will return for Orem in his senior year in hopes to redeem its championship loss to Pine View.

Grantsville outside hitter Ethan Powell (7) hits the ball past North Sanpete's Jackson Wilkey (12) during the 3A boys volleyball state championship held at the UCCU Center in Orem on Saturday, May 11, 2024. | Isaac Hale, Deseret News

3A Player of the Year

Ethan Powell, Grantsville, OH, Sr.

Ethan Powell made a name for himself on Grantsville’s basketball team, which he led in scoring this season. However, before graduating, Powell decided to try out for the volleyball team for his senior year.

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Powell excelled and launched 19 kills against North Sanpete in the 3A championship to secure the state title for Grantsville.

High school boys volleyball: Deseret News 2024 3A All-State team

“Ethan Powell has one of the most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen and just pure raw talent,” said Grantsville head coach Kelli Rexford. “He’s naturally a very competitive athlete, which helps drive him to be better and motivate his teammates to do the same.”

Powell ended his first and last season with 378 kills, 44 aces, 30 blocks, 155 digs and 18 assists. Rexford said Powell’s leadership was an added benefit alongside his volleyball skill.

“He always encouraged his teammates to push themselves and eventually became such an influential role model for the team and helped lead us to that most coveted championship title,” Rexford said. “Most importantly, Ethan is smart, kind, hardworking, and finally had the opportunity to show people how great he can be when given the right opportunity and support.”

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