MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Team's celebration dances keep morale high

 Players dance on the sidelines during the game against NJIT on March 20. Players perform different dances depending on what happens in the match. DN PHOTO TAYLOR IRBY
Players dance on the sidelines during the game against NJIT on March 20. Players perform different dances depending on what happens in the match. DN PHOTO TAYLOR IRBY

Even during the heat of a high stakes match, Ball State men’s volleyball players find ways to keep tensions low.

When Ball State reaches 24 points in a set, the fans will stand up, “We Like to Party” by Vengaboys starts playing and the bench players start dancing.

The dance involves players extending both of their arms out then moving one up and one down, going back and forth. Fans at Worthen Arena often join.

“When we’re doing well and we look over and see those guys celebrating and having a good time, it picks everybody up,” Kevin Owens, a senior middle attacker, said. “It’s great for both the guys on the bench and on the court.”

The tradition began four years ago when Owens was a freshman. With the match at set point, he and a few other players began dancing for amusement.

The dance caught on.

“The dancing, the PA [system], the sound effects: they’re all part of an overall package,” head coach Joel Walton said. “It lends to a unique environment in how we present our matches.”

After junior middle attacker Julian Welsh-White had shoulder surgery, his right arm was in a sling, and he couldn’t fully execute the dance. But senior outside attacker Larry Wrather was willing to help.

Wrather stood behind Welsh-White and extended his right arm in front of him, and they did the dance together.

“It’s good for our team to be having fun during the match,” Owens said. “It helps keep us loose.”

Depending on what happens during a match, Ball State has different sideline performances.

After an opponent’s service error, one player will pretend to be a bull, and another will be a matador.

Earlier in the season when Ball State served an ace, two players would sprint across the floor and slide on their chests, but they did away with the celebration.

It was replaced recently with a new celebration. Now, players form a football goal post. Sophomore outside attacker Jack Lesure kicks the imaginary football and his teammates throw their arms up as if the field goal is good.

Against Ohio State, his teammates pretended he missed the field goal, setting off laughter among the bench.

“There aren’t many volleyball programs that present a match this way,” Walton said. “The little bits of music and sound effects give Worthen Arena energy.”

Walton is clear with his team that he doesn’t want the celebrations to mock the opponents and to make sure they stay clean. With those rules in mind, the players have the freedom to invent what they’d like.

But at set point, fans shouldn’t expect fans to see Walton dancing anytime soon.

“I’ll leave that for my players,” he said, laughing.

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