Walk into Van Dyne Gymnasium on the campus of California Baptist University during a volleyball match and one will see standing room only for loud, raucous fans. All of this is crammed into a 987-seat venue, but the CBU women’s volleyball team would not have it any other way.
That is why, when CBU announced the dedication of a brand new state-of-the-art Events Center, women’s volleyball was not mentioned. The team will continue to play its home matches in the friendly and familiar confines of 49-year-old Van Dyne Gym.
Branden Higa, head coach of women’s volleyball, said he did not make the decision to continue playing in Van Dyne to the new arena.
“That was all figured out by administration, but I prefer being in here. I’m excited to be in here,” Higa said.
“The biggest thing is that we have great volleyball fans,” Higa said. “Our student body understands our sport, they show up for our team and they’re just tremendous fans of the sport of volleyball and we want them close. We want to be able to interact with them and we can do that best in this environment.
“I’m kind of nostalgic for it- to be honest. It’s a great floor it’s where we’ve always played. It’s our house.”
Lauren Hackett, senior graphic design major and outside hitter, echoed her coach’s sentiment and added that opposing teams dread playing on the road in Van Dyne.
“I know teams hate playing in here. I’ve heard it from their own mouths,” Hackett said. “It’s a hard gym to play in and that definitely plays to our advantage, especially in big games like Azusa Pacific University where the whole school is involved and they kind of build that tension.
“There’s a lot of energy just bouncing off from the fans to the coaches to you, it’s all in that tight spot, so I really like it, energy-wise.”
With the addition of the Events Center on campus, women’s volleyball no longer has to worry about sharing time in Van Dyne with other sports, which Higa said will aid the team since volleyball is a repetition intensive sport.
Sydney Kralj, senior marketing major and setter, said continuing to use the gym is beneficial to the team year-round.
“Being able to keep the nets up and coming (to the gym) whenever to just touch a ball is fantastic, where during basketball season we had to take down the nets.”
“Being in this gym last year was amazing for me, being able to pack it and have all our fans rooting for us and cheering for us,” Kralj said. “I’m happy to make this our gym and pack it even more with our fans.”
Coach Higa noted the unique pace of volleyball makes it a different kind of spectator sport.
“There’s a reason to celebrate after every single point. Someone is scoring a lot, and I feel like it makes for a different fan experience and it makes for just more interaction,” Higa said. “It’s more chances to celebrate and cheer because points are happening all the time.”
Higa did not rule out the idea of playing matches in the Events Center.
“I don’t think it will happen this year, but possibly in the future,” Higa said. “It would be cool to do that, but I would rather have 1,100 people in this place every single match than play a single game over there, because this is our home and this is where we’ve always been and generations of CBU volleyball players have sweated, bled, and given their best in this gym on this floor. We love it. I don’t feel bad about not being in the arena. I’m stoked to have this place and to be home.”