North Texas Daily

Venue’s size, band adds to home court advantage

Venue’s size, band adds to home court advantage

October 23
22:52 2012

Tim Cato / Staff Writer

Around these parts, the saying always goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.”

Volleyball head coach Ken Murczek, who grew up in Chicago and went to college in California, is not an advocate of that statement. While more and more collegiate volleyball teams are playing their games in cavernous basketball arenas, he has a different approach.

“I like a small venue,” Murczek said. “I like it loud. I like it where the fans are on top of each other. It’s intimate.”

It’s a simple fact: Volleyball does not collect the same number of fans as the “main” college sports of football and basketball. If the volleyball team held games in the Super Pit, the UNT basketball coliseum, their fan base would take up just a fraction of the seats.

Instead, the Mean Green Volleyball Center, part of the Mean Green Village, is the facility of choice for Murczek and his team. A game against Baylor on Sept. 18 showed the stadium off at its finest as 622 fans packed into the center with only 600 seats, the last few opting to stand rather than miss the game.

Junior middle blocker Courtney Windham specifically remembered the impact of the fans on that game.

“This crowd was amazing, absolutely amazing, to see people floating in from the corners of the gym,” Windham said. “I couldn’t hear anyone. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. It was great.”

Baylor lost to UNT in three straight sets while committing an uncharacteristic 26 attacking errors.

The sky is falling

Home court advantage is often only associated with how loud the fan base can get, but the Mean Green Volleyball Center takes it a step further.

The ceiling is a paltry 29 feet above the floor, barely passing the 23 feet minimum to comply with NCAA regulations.

When the volleyball does hit the roof – something that happens a few times each match – the ball remains in play.

Sometimes, the change in the ball’s trajectory is miniscule, but there are other times were it comes off the sloped ceiling at an angle that forces a player to quickly adjust.

Teams who play in spacious basketball stadiums can be confounded by this minor structural detail, under- or over-reacting to the deflection that allows the ball to hit the floor.

“I think it’s an advantage, [when] the ball bangs around the ceiling,” Murczek said. “At the end of the day, good teams manage to find a way to get it over the net. Good teams still figure it out.”

Band of brothers

It’s not a true sporting event without some sort of musical experience. For UNT, this is represented by the volleyball band, led by music education senior Eric Mills.

“Our job is to support the university as a whole,” Mills said. “To strive to improve the atmosphere of the building, to keep the fans and players hyped up. We try to be super fans at all times.”

Most impressive is that the band has not even practiced together since the start of the season because of time commitments to the Mean Green Brigade Marching Band, which all the band members are a part of.

“We got one rehearsal at the beginning of the season,” Mills said. “All the rest is relying on their professionalism and their musicianship, which of course is at a high level. They’re basically professional musicians.”

The Mean Green’s record at home shows exactly what the band and building have done this season. On the year, the team is 12-4 at home this year compared to just 3-5 on the road.

The volleyball team may not abide by the unwritten rule in collegiate volleyball of playing in a giant gymnasium, but the results don’t lie for the Mean Green.

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