DN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL: Dancing in the dark
The lights turn off and the music turns on.
A Ball State sign glows red in the darkness of the Worthen Arena locker room. Women’s volleyball players then take out their phones and activate the strobe lights.
The raging dance party starts, one that takes place before every match with “Gas Pedal” by Sage the Gemini featuring IamSu.
“We’re together and having fun,” sophomore setter Jenna Spadafora said. “Afterwards, we run out onto the court, and it’s game on.”
Before every match at home, the team gathers in the locker room for final preparations. It’s not as much analytical as it is motivational.
The team, which sits at 17-4 and is an undefeated 5-0 at home, often wins by large margins.
Although a strong game plan and good execution play a role, sophomore middle blocker Kelly Hopkins and Spadafora said there may be another factor involved.
Hopkins said they start blaring music and form a circle, with one player in the middle who shows off her dance moves. Usually, it’s Hopkins who throws down to start the party.
As the dance progresses, players one-by-one will filter to the center of the circle and show off their individual moves while the strobe lights illuminate the room.
Jaqui Seidel, a senior setter, said freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel is the best dancer on the team.
“There may or may not be twerking involved,” Spadafora said as players and coaches in the practice facility erupted in laughter.
The origin of the tradition rests with Alyssa Rio. A defensive specialist and libero for Ball State from 2007-10, Rio was the first player to begin dancing during the pregame, said Lauren Schlaker, who played from 2009-12.
At times it was just Rio dancing; no one else wanted to jump in. Eventually, it grew on the team.
The dance party isn’t just for fun, but serves as a way to fire up the team before the match begins.
It’s a custom the team uses only when it’s at home, never taking it on the road. There’s fist bumping and jumping on the couch in the locker room, Spadafora said.
“It’s definitely one of the reasons we’re winning so much at home,” she said. “It gets so intense; we really get our blood pumping.”
It’s worked for the team so far. Since the season began, Ball State has dropped just three sets out of 18.
Three times, the team has won the first set by at least seven, including a 25-7 drubbing of IPFW in the first set of the home opener.
Both Hopkins and Spadafora credited the strong starts during matches to the excitement gathered in the locker room before they head out.
It can get so loud sometimes that the players wonder if fans or opposing teams can hear it.
Spadafora can’t give away too many secrets, but did say the advantage it gives her team when playing at Worthen Arena is undeniable.