Rec Hall electric for volleyball

The news came on Monday: the Penn State women’s volleyball team is once again the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, their fifth week at the top spot; but this time around, the ranking is unanimous.

For the Nittany Lions, the designation is just another footnote in a long and storied legacy that includes seven national championships, 35 straight NCAA tournament appearances and 16 Big Ten titles under coach Russ Rose.

The Lions host Indiana Wednesday evening, the last game of the regular season, in what will likely be an electrified Rec Hall.

The venue, which stands just a few steps from the Lion Shrine in the heart of Happy Valley, has become one of the most-attended home courts for any volleyball team in the nation.

And for Penn State faithful who haven’t been in the building in a couple of decades — it’s not the Rec Hall you’ll remember from its pre-BJC basketball days.

Back then, the building, which first opened in 1929, had a very unique feel — kind of old, but also kind of awesome. Basketball players would often land in the laps of fans, and opposing teams would get an ear-full, literally, when inbounding the ball.

Hoops moved to the Bryce Jordan Center in 1995, but Rec Hall continues to be the home court for five Penn State programs: men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s gymnastics and wrestling.

And if those walls could only talk.

Renovated, upgraded and expanded more than a decade ago, modern-day Rec Hall has witnessed the domination of the women’s volleyball program.

It has also observed the arrival of wrestling legend Cael Sanderson, and the ensuing five Big Ten and national titles, along with the pursuit several PSU individual national championships.

The facility has been the Lions’ den for Olympians, All-Americans, and scholars, while becoming one of the hottest tickets in Pennsylvania. Last year, seats for every home wrestling match sold out before the first dual meet of the season.

But those standing-room-only situations only add to the lore and legacy of those hallowed halls. And this year is especially significant, as the national champion wrestling team looks to defend its title, and the women’s volleyball squad heads toward the playoffs in a quest for their first NCAA crown since 2014.

While more than 100,000 fans pack Beaver Stadium across campus for football games, the experience of a Penn State wrestling or volleyball contest is every bit as special in their own rights. If you can squeeze into Recreation Hall, it is well worth the effort to see some of the greatest in their fields in action.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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