Thursday, February 29, 2024

Fan support has dwindled away

September 27, 2001

The MSU Spartan volleyball team saw two extreme ends of the spectrum last weekend.

At No. 7 Wisconsin, 2,222 Badger loyals packed the Wisconsin Field House. At Northwestern, 361 fans saw the Wildcats and the Spartans tangle.

MSU’s Jenison Field House lies somewhere in-between - and the players want to see that change.

“It’s tough to play at Wisconsin,” junior middle blocker Angela Morley said. “It’s loud in there, and it’d be nice to have teams come here to Jenison and have it be a tough place to play for them because of the crowd.”

Through seven home matches, the Spartans have drawn an average of 856 fans. That’s lower than last season’s home average of 1,052 and way down from the glory days of the mid-’90s.

In 1995, the last time the Spartans made the national semifinals, home attendance averaged at 1,590 per home match. The following season set an all-time high with 2,391 fans crowded Jenison, on average, to watch the Spartan squad that eventually tied for first in the Big Ten.

The Spartans went 31-2 at home over the two-year span.

Sophomore defensive specialist Emmy Miller, an Okemos native, cheered on the 1995 and ’96 teams from Jenison’s bleachers.

“It was a completely different atmosphere then,” Miller said. “It was more alive and very excited and supportive of the girls playing on the floor.”

Miller specifically remembers attending a NCAA Tournament match against Texas A&M in 1996 at Jenison. A record-setting 4,937 people filled the seats.

“All the stands were filled, the upper balcony was filled - I’ve never seen a crowd here like that,” she said. “The roar of the crowd, the first time you hear it, gives you chills.”

But soon after, fan support began to dip annually. Home attendance fell from 1,528 fans each game in 1997 to 911 fans in 1999. The numbers bounced back a little in 2000, to 1,052 fans per game.

Assistant coach Todd Dagenais said fans want to see successful teams.

“We had some injuries which dramatically changed the composition of the team,” he said. “That directly caused inconsistencies in our play, and that showed in our records. “

The Big Ten home play starts against No. 17 Minnesota at 7 p.m. Friday and Iowa at 7 p.m. Saturday.

And sophomore setter Nikki Colson said that a larger crowd would help the team rebound from losses at Wisconsin and Northwestern last weekend.

“It would be tremendous to have support, and I think it’d be very uplifting for us after last weekend,” she said.


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