BOISE — Fans began lining up for tickets outside Bronco Gym at 3 p.m. Friday in anticipation of the Boise State volleyball team’s 5:30 p.m. match against No. 1 Minnesota.
The Broncos rewarded their dedication with a near upset, becoming the first team this season to take the unbeaten Golden Gophers to five games — in front of a sold-out crowd.
With 50 fans unable to find a seat and dozens more standing in the doorways, Boise State rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force the decisive Game 5, eventually falling 25-22, 25-19, 21-25, 23-25, 15-12.
“We’ve generated a lot of new fans because they like the high level of intensity that the game is played at. They like the venue that we have here, and they like the way our team performs,” Boise State head coach Shawn Garus said. “If our team went out there in front of a big crowd and didn’t play hard and didn’t fight and didn’t compete, those fans wouldn’t come back.
“But they’re all coming back, and we’re getting new fans every day because they’re hearing something special is happening with Boise State volleyball.”
The announced attendance at Friday’s match was 1,360. Bronco Gym holds 1,300.
It was the first time the program had faced the country’s top-ranked team.
“We’re willing to schedule anybody,” Garus said.
The Broncos won their first Mountain West championship last season, qualifying for the program’s first NCAA Tournament. After an upset of No. 20 Western Kentucky in the first round, Boise State fell to eventual national champion Stanford.
That performance opened the door for a stronger schedule this fall, and the unranked Broncos are already finding they can go toe-to-toe with the country’s best teams.
“It’s just weird because I’ve seen these girls play on TV and in the NCAA Tournament and go all the way to the finals,” Boise State senior libero Maddi Osburn said. “It was crazy to see them in Bronco Gym and it was crazy to see us put up a fight.”
The Broncos did more than put up a fight.
The fifth set included five ties, and the Broncos finished the match with more kills (74-72), assists (73-66) and digs (77-76) than the Golden Gophers.
Osburn, a graduate of Vallivue High in Caldwell, had a match-high 27 digs, and Sabryn Roberts (22 kills, 14 digs), Sierra Nobley (23 kills, 13 digs) and Janell Walley (17 kills, 11 digs) finished with double-doubles.
Osburn is 58 digs away from matching the program career record. Nobley set school and Mountain West records for career kills earlier this season.
Against the Golden Gophers, Nobley set the school career points record, scoring 24.5 to give her 1,847.5. Cameron Flunder (2003-06) held the previous record at 1,834.
Boise State lost a tight, three-set match to No. 10 BYU two weeks ago at Bronco Gym.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us here. We really wanted to make it the best one ever,” Osburn said. “We didn’t want to fall short. We didn’t want to feel the feeling we did against BYU when we could have won, or we should have done different things.
“We wanted to give everything we had, and I think we gave them our best effort.”