During the last few years, Florida Gulf Coast University has hosted premier teams. Softball hosted top-ranked Alabama last year, baseball has brought in top teams such as the University of Florida and Notre Dame and basketball entertained eventual Atlantic Coast Conference champions the University of Miami last year.
However on Saturday night FGCU hosts one of the most prestigious programs in volleyball history. At 7 p.m. on Saturday they host the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State is arguably the best collegiate volleyball program ever. Their coach, Russ Rose, is in his 35th year at the school with more than 1,000 wins in his historic career. They have also won five national championships and under Rose have set numerous records.
In 35 seasons, Penn State has only lost double-digit games three seasons. From 2008-10, the Nittany Lions won 109 consecutive matches. That 109 are the same number of games that the FGCU volleyball team has won since 2007 (not including the USF game Tuesday). That is just mind-blowing.
FGCU head coach Dave Nichols is not dumb. He didn’t just schedule Penn State (although he and Rose have been friends for quite some time) to come beat up on FGCU; he is no stranger to facing off against ranked non-conference teams. Since 2009, FGCU has faced at least one non-conference, ranked opponent.
In 2009, they faced No. 16 University of Southern California and No. 21 Pepperdine, both in the Holiday Inn LA City Center Trojan Invitational.
In 2010 they faced off against No. 18 Oregon in Eugene, Ore., No. 19 Michigan in Corvallis, Ore., in the Active Ankle Challenge and No. 9 Washington at the Bulldog Invitational hosted by the University of Georgia. In 2011 they hosted No. 3 USC in the second annual FGCU Homewood Suites Volleyball Invitational and two weeks later traveled to No. 5 Penn State as part of the Penn State Tournament in University Park, Pa.
In 2012 they faced No. 18 University of Florida in Gainesville.
And this year, Penn State will be the third ranked opponent in the first 10 games. Nichols schedules these tough teams to get his team ready for the conference schedule, which, in no disrespect whatsoever, is little competition compared to some of these teams.
Alico Arena needs to be packed on Saturday night. I’m talking a few thousand people. Sorry men’s soccer coach Bob Butehorn but fans’ first priority Saturday should be the volleyball game. This is not only an opportunity to watch some great volleyball but to watch one of the most storied programs and greatest collegiate volleyball coach in history.
Dirty Birds, this is your time to shine. Penn State plays in an arena that has a 7,200-person capacity and they are used to loudness, so this must be different. Don’t be afraid to lose your voice yelling all game. Hopefully, the community will realize how big of a game this is and help pack Alico Arena.
This could be an historic moment for our school. FGCU has never beaten a ranked opponent before and after everything that’s happened in the last year adding another unthinkable achievement would just add to how great this emerging program is. Now I’m not saying FGCU will win (sorry girls I think it goes 3-1) but this is a huge moment for our school.