Nov. 9, 2009
By Shawn Sell
The friendly confines of Fifth Third Arena have never been friendlier to the University of Cincinnati volleyball team as the Bearcats bring a 25-match home court winning streak into this week. After winning their final two regular-season home matches of 2007, the Bearcats ripped off 14 consecutive wins at home a year ago and have captured the first nine in a row this year.
That success translates to the second-longest home winning streak in the nation, behind only perennial national power Penn State, which holds a 68-match home streak. A long home-court winning streak is not new ground for the Bearcats, who won 23 in a row at home from Nov. 17, 2002 through Oct. 24, 2004.
"We have been fortunate that we have a great place to play and that our kids feel comfortable playing there," UC coach Reed Sunahara says. "We don't really focus on the streak; we just focus on each game that we play."
This year's home docket has been highlighted by a third consecutive State Farm Bearcats Invitational tournament title and wins over regional rival Western Kentucky, BIG EAST power Pittsburgh and, perhaps, UC's biggest nemesis of all, Louisville. Overall, UC sports a 27-4 set record at home and is hitting .274 at home (as opposed to .209 on the road). It is averaging nearly one and a half kills per set more in Fifth Third Arena.
"There are a lot of factors involved," Sunahara says. "It helps sleeping in your own bed, but we also get to play in front of our family and friends and we practice in that gym. I don't think there is one specific reason why we are good at home."
One factor that certainly has helped is the RallyCats student group. Often considered one of the most vocal and menacing student sections around, the RallyCats have helped UC to a 103-15 home record since Sunahara became head coach in 2000.
"The RallyCats have been a big part of the reason why we have been successful," Sunahara says. "I think they contributed to the start of other school's student sections, especially in the BIG EAST. Some of the places that we go now have pretty good student sections, especially the better programs in the league. I think that is a tribute to the RallyCats that because (other teams) come to our place, they feel like it's an advantage that they want to start at their school."
With the 2009 season winding down, fans still have a chance to cheer on the Bearcats as they try to extend their win streak and battle for a top seed in the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament.
UC (20-9, 10-2 BIG EAST) trails first-place Notre Dame by two matches entering the final weekend of conference play. The Bearcats will play host to Connecticut on Saturday (Nov. 14) and St. John's on Sunday with both matches starting at 2 p.m. UC closes the 2009 regular season at home against Miami University at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28.