Nov. 3, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There's an old adage that states, "with age comes wisdom."
In Tully Gym's case, an updated proverb would be more appropriate: "With age comes intimidation."
As one of the older facilities utilized by a Florida State University varsity athletic program, Tully Gym won't wow anyone aesthetically. It doesn't boast the same pizzaz and "newly-constructed feel" that perhaps some of the other volleyball programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in the state of Florida possess.
But for everything that Tully Gym lacks from a contemporary standpoint, it more than makes up for from a comfort aspect.
"We like the coziness of Tully because it kind of adds to the intimidation factor because the noise just goes out of the building," FSU volleyball coach Chris Poole said. "But at the same time, I think people have to understand that the building is only as good as the fans that are there at the time of the match. Our players certainly get very motivated. They love playing in front of great crowds. It's uplifting to them and it just energizes all of us."
And the Seminoles have certainly been uplifted this season.
The transfer of energy from the support of consistently impressive crowds at Tully Gym is an important factor in the 'Noles' success on Lucy McDaniel Court in 2011. FSU enters its final two home matches of the season on Friday and Sunday with an unblemished 10-0 record at home.
FSU's dominance in its own building is nothing new. Since Poole and his staff took over the program before the start of the 2008 season, the Seminoles have registered a 48-10 record on their home floor, including a 16-1 mark in 2009 when the team went to the Elite Eight.
"I think since I got here the program has done this 180," said senior Rachael Morgan, whose first season was also the first year of the new coaching staff. "Everything just came together. The coaches did a lot of work, marketing does an amazing job and as players we try to do a lot with the fans and get personal with them. There are just so many components that came together to make Tully what it is today."
What Tully Gym is now is a venue that has not only seen its average attendance for volleyball matches skyrocket in the last several years but also one that has been molded to better promote and benefit its players.
From brand new banners adoring the entrance and lobby to the the ones circling the rafters around Lucy McDaniel Court, Tully Gym has undergone an visual overhaul that celebrates the accomplishments of the 'Noles.
"The administration has certainly made a huge commitment to us to let us fix up Tully," said Poole, who also mentioned the benefits of a new film room. "In putting in some of the signage that we now have and even the locker room that some of the fans don't see has really been uplifting for the players. So we are doing some things to try to fix it up. Getting the fans in here is so important and it really has become a consistently great atmosphere. I think that's the key."
Contributing to that atmosphere and the improvements is the presence of FSU's band.
When the instruments are blaring in unison and the crowd is reacting to the action on the court, the new and improved Tully Gym provides quite the visual and audible scene.
Katie Mosher, who is now a redshirt freshman and integral part of FSU's success, was once a hot-shot recruit. She had her choice of some of the top volleyball programs in the country but said that part of her decision to choose Florida State was because of the atmosphere and the contribution of the band -- a musical aspect that many other programs do not have.
"Having the band here was huge," Mosher said. "I thought that was so cool. They don't just play music but they are also loud and really into the game."
They won't be Mosher's last-ever home matches this weekend or even the last time the band and fans will file into Tully Gum loud and proud. But Friday's match against NC State and Sunday's against North Carolina will mark the end of an era for Morgan and fellow seniors Visnja Djurdjevic, Patricia Figueiredo and Jekaterina Stepanova.
And for the four student-athletes that have been such an important part of the transition of the program and its home-town support, it's only fitting that they get to play on Lucy McDaniel Court in style two more times with yet another raucous, rowdy and intimidating environment at Tully Gym.
"From my first game here as a freshman when there weren't that many people that came to matches," Morgan said, "to now where it is packed for every match and everyone is yelling your name and it's loud, it's just incredible. It is amazing."