Syracuse prepared for home opener after 4 weeks on road
Syracuse has seen how beneficial a large, vocal home crowd can be.
When the Orange played against Creighton and Iowa State, assistant coach Stephanie Cantway noticed the size and commitment of their home crowds. Cantway said the crowds were involved and supportive, and it created a great atmosphere for both sides.
Now the Orange is looking to have a similar advantage at its home court.
Syracuse (7-6) plays its first home match of the year at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Building on Wednesday night against Binghamton. Cantway and head coach Leonid Yelin are working to morph their home court into a dynamic atmosphere for volleyball, similar to those they saw in Nebraska and Iowa.
“There hasn’t been a volleyball family, a volleyball program here that the community has bought into,” Cantway said. “We’re not expecting our first game to be sold out, but we’re trying to build.”
The players enjoy the comforts of playing in front of the home crowd. Junior Lindsay McCabe said the team is relieved to play a game in Syracuse, especially because of the distance they’ve traveled in early tournaments this season.
“Just to be able to take that energy from the crowd, it’s a huge advantage,” McCabe said. “We’re really excited.”
Still, the crowd commitment is lacking in the Women’s Building.
The program took its first steps in trying to build support from the community during the summer when it held a volleyball camp for local students. The camp offered instruction for high school teams, practices for specific skills and a youth camp. Cantway said the goal was to create excitement for the sport while making the Orange players identifiable.
Cantway said if local volleyball players and community members can get to know the Syracuse players on a more personal level, the program’s influence and public support for the team should increase.
“We really feel like if the kids in the community know the girls, if they know Lindsay McCabe, come up and give her a hug in the supermarket or at the game, that’s what’s going to bring people to the games,” Cantway said.
Cantway said SU’s non revenue sports can create a bond with the community with more ease than the larger sports like basketball and football. But successfully promoting the sport in the community will be a tough task for the Orange. Gathering large crowds depends on creating interest in the sport.
Yelin said many people in America lack passion for volleyball because they don’t know the sport. Those who have never played competitively often can’t understand how the game works at a high level.
“A lot of people have a perception that it’s a picnic game, and you know what a picnic game is like,” Yelin said. “Some people came in for the first time and they were shocked at the level of play.”
Yelin said misconceptions about the sport are often what keep people away. Syracuse has a unique opportunity to dispel the notion of volleyball lacking competitiveness when it plays in a much larger setting later in the season.
The Orange will play the program’s first-ever matches in the Carrier Dome on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11. Volleyball becomes the latest non revenue sport to make its debut in the Dome, after the softball team played there last spring.
Until then, Yelin and Cantway continue to work toward making the Women’s Building an engaging environment for spectators.
“It’s entertainment, it’s a production,” Cantway said. “That’s really what we’re going for.”
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