Article by Matt Langemo
Imagine coming to work and being watched by 1,000 people. Kari Thompson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It gives you goosebumps”, NDSU volleyball coach Kari Thompson says.
The Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse (BBF) has been hosting NDSU volleyball matches since 1978 and has quickly become the premier place to play in the Summit League. When one looks up “home court advantage” in the dictionary, a picture of the stately BBF stands there proudly.
Coming into this season, since NDSU made the transition to Division I in 2006, the Bison’s home record is an astounding 49-8, for a win percentage of .860. If that weren’t good enough, the Bison’ home record during conference play is a dominant 33-2 (.943), including three straight seasons of unbeaten play (2007-2009).
“Coaches have begun to give their players pep talks about coming to and playing in the BBF”, Coach Thompson said. “Everyone is very much impressed that our fans take a lot of pride and care about volleyball here.”
Coach Thompson remarked that a few years ago when Tulsa, a top 25 ranked team, came to play, they were “in awe” of the BBF. They’d be even more impressed now.
The BBF has undergone a number of improvements in the past few seasons including a new scoreboard, windows, floor, bleachers, and sound system. Just ask Director of Women’s Athletics, Lynn Dorn.
“The many facility improvements have impacted the atmosphere and I dare say, the BBF has become one of the best in Division I.” Dorn said. “Visiting coaches often comment about the uniqueness of having a dedicated volleyball venue and would love to have what NDSU has.”
For fans and alumni who have attended NDSU volleyball matches for years, one of the most noticeable improvements has been removing the boards over the windows and replacing them. Donna Terbizan has been the official scorekeeper during NDSU matches for almost 20 years, and loves the new windows. For many of those years she’s worked with Nancy Fisher, who operates the scoreboard. Fisher said the old windows “leaked like a sieve”, making the fieldhouse quite cold during the matches in the late fall.
The improvements in the BBF, along with the recent success of the team, has driven attendance. NDSU has lead the Summit league in attendance for years, and has been in the top 51 nationally at the Division I level, often outdrawing programs such as USC, LSU, Oregon State, Clemson, and many more. In 2009, NDSU was ranked 31st in the country, averaging more fans than USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Arizona, Notre Dame, Long Beach State, Kansas, and third-ranked Florida State. According to official figures from the NCAA through October 14th this year, NDSU is currently 40th in the country with average attendance of 1,039 fans.
“When the Bison pep band, students and fans get rocking, they really do create a home court advantage”, Dorn says. Surrounded by 1,000 people with noise levels often above 100 decibels, Coach Thompson wouldn’t want to come to work anywhere else.