Smith Fieldhouse serves up top atmosphere for Cougar volleyball

Ari Davis
The BYU women’s volleyball team plays in front of a sold out crowd in the Smith Fieldhouse. Thousands of faithful fans turn out men’s and women’s volleyball games, and men’s coach Shawn Olmstead says fans are instrumental to the team’s success.  (Ari Davis)

The BYU men’s volleyball team has won 120 out of 137 games played in the Smith Fieldhouse since the 2006 season with the support of thousands of faithful fans. The women’s team has experienced similar success, winning 103 of 129 home games in that same time frame.

The Smith Fieldhouse holds over 5,000 fans. It has averaged an attendance of over 4,350 for the men’s team’s first six home games, including a maxed-out capacity of 5,637 fans in the Cougars’ season opening match win over No. 3 Loyola-Chicago. The Cougars have won five out of six of their home matches, with the only loss coming in a close five-set match to Stanford.

The Cougar men’s team’s 87 percent home-winning percentage since 2007 is even more impressive when compared to other volleyball powerhouses. Long Beach State has won just 63 percent of its home games over that span and Stanford has won only 67 percent.

“BYU is a great environment,” sophomore Leo Durkin said. “The nice thing is that you have 5,000 people rooting for you, so you can’t do anything wrong.”

When asked about the role of fans in home games, BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said they are “instrumental.” He added that he talks with his players often about getting as many fans out as possible to their games. Olmstead even joked that the players should offer to buy fans lunch or flirt with girls to get more fans to come because of the huge role they play in the Cougars’ success.

BYU sports teams generally receive good support from fans even when on the road. But players recognize the support at home makes a huge impact and know they can’t take the fans for granted.

“It’s so fun,” said junior and volleyball player Jake Langlois. “When we go other places we still get a lot of support just because BYU is a really good traveling team, but there is nothing like playing at home. It’s amazing.”

Maples Pavilion, the home of Stanford volleyball and basketball, holds 7,392 people. But because it doubles as a basketball arena, fans aren’t as close to the court as they are in the Smith Fieldhouse. Fans enjoying a game in Provo can sit right above the court in elevated seating or sit inches on either side of the court. It’s even common for fans to catch balls that fly out of play.

“It makes you want to go,” BYU student Debbie Horikami said. “You feel close to the game because of the way you are seated and the passion the fans around you have.”

The next home game is set for Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. against Cal State Northridge.

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