Rec Hall is a historic gym, one that both opposing players and Penn Staters say they feel honored to compete in.
Rafters hang from the ceiling commemorating dozens of Penn State teams, across all spectrums of sport, that have made their mark in school history.
Just this past weekend, the stadium hosted three volleyball teams vying for a national championship.
While the only team to come out of the weekend with its championship hopes intact was No. 1 Penn State, several players from the losing teams smiled wide when asked about playing in one of the most famous places in women’s volleyball.
“It’s obviously big and awesome, but it’s not a massive coliseum and there’s a lot of cool tradition that goes on in that gym,” said Yale’s Haley Wessels. “I was really honored to have played in it, and there were tons of fans.”
The tradition Wessels speaks of dates back to 1928, when it was originally constructed.
From the time when the structure was built at a final cost of about $570,000, it has played host to 21 collegiate national championships, and has seen its seating capacity today skyrocket to 6,846.
While most women’s volleyball matches fall short of the max capacity, fans generally show up in drones — anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000. And although Rec Hall usually has room for a few thousand more fans, you would never know it, given the way the stadium is built and how fans embrace the players.
“It’s very personal. [The fans] are very close to you,” said Yale’s Mollie Rogers on Friday.
After the Bulldogs were eliminated from the tournament with a loss to Bowling Green, Rogers — whose Yale team sports the same blue and white colors as Penn State — said she thought the fans wearing blue and white were pouring in to support Yale.
“When Penn State fans started to show up, I just kept thinking, ‘Oh, more people are coming and there’s going to be more people cheering, so when we do something good, they’ll probably cheer for us,’ ” Rogers said.
While good sportsmanship, which was encouraged prior to the start of the match, on behalf of the Nittany Lion faithful led the fans to cheer on all the teams, it was Penn State that they were there for.
All-Big Ten outside hitter Deja McClendon said the team fed off the crowd’s energy in Friday’s win against Binghamton.
“When the tournament starts, it’s just a whole ‘nother vibe in [Rec Hall],” McClendon said.
“It’s amazing. Our fans are just such a part of our game, and I’m extremely proud to play in front of them.”