It was truly a sight to behold.
Those unfortunate enough to miss out on this experience missed out on something special. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. It was one of the best sporting events I’ve personally been able to witness.
I was able to speak with some of the fans who made this a match to remember.
One of the stars among Cougar fans is Martin Wright. Fans may not know him by name, but many should recognize his signature cheer.
Since 1978, he yells, “Eat ’em up Cougars!” right after the prayer at BYU sporting events.
“In the Smith Fieldhouse, it gets totally quiet right after the prayer, and I can do my signature cheer.” When I asked him why he did this, he told me, “I just noticed at games it was totally quiet. When you have dead quiet, somebody has to make some noise. So I started that at BYU basketball in 1978.”
It’s become a BYU tradition.
“The team actually expects me to do ‘Eat ’em up Cougars!’ Wright said with a smile. “They wait for me. They know it’s going to happen. They would be shocked if it didn’t happen.”
When I asked him about BYU’s success this season, he smiled and said, “It’s incredible. It’s incredible to watch. The level they play at in volleyball is tremendous. There’s no better volleyball in the country than the MPSF.”
Also, Wright has a new tradition. At each home game, he sits above a poster of Taylor Sander. Every time a BYU player serves an ace, he stands up and holds up a piece of paper with the word “ace” on it, and several BYU fans around him hold up similar papers. He then tapes the paper to the poster.
“If you see aces go up, I’m the one who’s doing aces at the volleyball games.”
Clearly, Wright is a fan who stands out in the crowd in the best way possible. And what a crowd it was on Saturday night.
It was truly a championship caliber crowd.
While Stanford fought well against the Cougars, it had to fight both the players on the court and the massive standing-room-only crowd. For two of the sets, the Stanford players had to start their serves mere inches from the ROC. The student section made sure to make its presence known.
There’s some great cheers the fans do at these volleyball games. For example, every time outside hitter Josue Rivera serves the ball, fans chant, “Josue! Josue! Josue! Josue!” to the tune of “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!”
Also, when BYU reaches a set or match point, BYU fans do a shark chomp kind of clap as the Jaws theme plays over the loudspeakers. Every fan in the building was on their feet each time this happened.
It’s things like this that make a sweet championship game like this that much more memorable.
I also talked to a pair of Stanford fans before the game. Mike Kaminski and Anne Irvin were complimentary about the atmosphere at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“It’s exciting and exhilarating,” Irvin told me. “The fans are like no other, getting a sold-out stadium a lot of the time. It was sold out when we were here earlier in the season. It’s an incredible feeling, the fan support and the energy.”
There was certainly plenty of energy on Saturday night.
The Cougars did not lose a set during the MPSF tournament, and when you see the kind of fans who go to these games, it’s not hard to see why. BYU’s elite volleyball team clearly has an elite fan base to match. It was truly an unforgettable atmosphere at a one-of-a-kind arena.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler