For much of the school year, thousands of students walk past it almost every weekend. Yet many have no clue where it is.
The front door is barely noticeable when the building is closed. There’s no grand entrance way and large plaza, like at Hill Auditorium. No giant scoreboard emblazoned with the block ‘M’ introduces you to the city, like Michigan Stadium. And it doesn’t look like it’s an alien spacecraft that crash landed in a large parking lot, like Crisler Arena.
I’m talking about Cliff Keen Arena, home to the Michigan volleyball team.
And no matter how unassuming it may look from the outside, Cliff Keen provides one of the most electric atmospheres for a sporting event on campus.
Don’t believe me? Think it isn’t possible a volleyball game can be as much fun to attend as a football, basketball or hockey game? Think again.
Is watching a powerful Mike Hart run or a jarring David Harris tackle your cup of tea? Wait until you see a Katie Bruzdzinski or Lyndsay Miller spike. They gracefully jump into the air, only to hammer the ball back over the net and toward their opponent. Muhammad Ali may have been the first to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, but these two are perfecting it.
Still not impressed? Maybe you enjoy the electricity of a basketball game and the thrill of a Brent Petway block. Sorry Air Georgia, but the energy you provide a block is just a candle compared to the spotlight that is the duo of sophomore Beth Karpiak and senior Megan Bowman. The nerdy kid with severe halitosis who played Warcraft wasn’t rejected nearly as harshly as opposing teams are when one or both of them make a block. And the moment after the ball has gone back into the face of the adversary, you can tell Michigan’s opponents die a little bit inside. You can’t get that in basketball.
But I’m still not convincing you.
Jose, you say, I don’t care about the big plays like the home runs, the buzzer beaters or the hail marys. I enjoy watching teamwork and defense, the kind that allows the offense to counter attack, like in hockey.
Cliff Keen will be the right place for you, because the Wolverines can do that, too. Just imagine the other team spiking the ball from the left side of the floor. Before you can even see the ball reach sophomore Kerry Hance, she’s there to send it harmlessly back into the air. Then watch out for junior Stesha Selsky, who’ll sit under it like an outfielder waits under a lazy fly ball, and anticipate just what to do when the ball reaches her. But don’t concentrate on her too much, because while this is happening, someone else (likely Bruzdzinski) is swooping in from either the left or right side of the court. Before you can say, Nice dig, Selsky has set the ball, Bruzdzinski has spiked it and Michigan is celebrating another point. Your head spinning yet? Don’t worry, it’s supposed to.
Still not buying into volleyball? At least sit with the student cheering section, The Zone. They may not be the most vulgar group, but considering it’s standing just 15 feet away from the opposing team’s server, it’s no surprise it gets into the heads of the enemy. Whether it’s telling a player her sister is hotter, chanting “table dancer” every time a player steps up to the line and serves or yelling, “Sit down, coach,” it’s always a good time at The Zone. Heck, you might even get a high five from a player.
So, if midterms are stressing you out, or you hate Michigan State or you’re a displaced Yankee fan who doesn’t have a team to root for in the playoffs, give volleyball a chance tonight at 7 p.m. and walk south down State Street to Cliff Keen Arena. Cheer on the Wolverines as they face the Spartans in the first of two matches this season.
And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with the sport. I sure did.
– Bosch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.