UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After notching two conference victories on the road at Purdue and Indiana, the Nittany Lions return home to Rec Hall to welcome No. 19 Ohio State on Wednesday evening.
But this matchup isn't a typical match as the Nittany Lions won't be seeing fans in blue and white. Instead, the evening will represent something bigger with pink being featured throughout the stands.
Penn State and the Side-Out Foundation will host its annual "Dig Pink" match for the seventh consecutive year in support of breast cancer research.
"It's just great that people want to participate and contribute to the cause," head coach Russ Rose said. "I think it's great for everybody affiliated with Penn State. I know they have a big program here with basketball, and this is something different that has been in play for a couple of years. We've been involved in it since the first year it started and I hope it continues long after I'm gone."
'Side-out' in volleyball means a team is regaining control of the ball, and that's what the Side-Out Foundation is all about. It's a support and advocacy organization that unites volleyball players and coaches to have them work toward the common goal of furthering breast cancer awareness, education and patient services. Millions of dollars have been raised, which goes towards high-quality support services for cancer patients, their families and scholarships for young students to motivate them to continue achieving their dreams, all while developing treatments so a cure is discovered in the near future.
Having hosted an annual event in Rec Hall in each of the last seven years, Penn State's 2015 campaign once again generated nearly $4,000 for the Side-Out Foundation, to match a record number, which was originally set in 2014.
"Breast cancer reaches and touches lots of people, and anything we can do to raise awareness and funding to help with the various programs and trials that are in play to help the people in the future, we should all be honored to be part of that," coach Rose said.
The match will also hit home for some of the student-athletes, like freshman libero Kendall White.
"I think it's a huge deal," White said. "My grandma is a survivor of breast cancer so it means a lot to me having all the girls support it, having all the fans come in and auction off our warmup jerseys. It's amazing to be raising money. It's a really great cause and I love it so much that I get to be part of it."
At the match, the Nittany Lions will host a silent auction to bid for the pregame Dig Pink warmup jerseys where proceeds will go directly toward Penn State's "Dig Pink" profile. There will also be free pink shakers, with the first 200 students in attendance receiving free pizza, Dig Pink shirts and pink wRECking crew hard hats.
"Pink is my favorite color, so I think it will be amazing going out there with the team [and seeing all the pink]," White said. "We're just going to come out fighting hard. It's a big game, so I hope it's like every game where the fans come in and cheer us on."
Penn State's Dig Pink event comes at just the right time for the Nittany Lions, who recently returned home from the road, with visits to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota all looming the future after the mid-week against the Buckeyes at Rec Hall.
"It's a huge deal to have this break in the road trips," White said. "Playing at home is one of our favorite things to do because all of our fans are here. Everyone is supporting us and we are surrounded by people who love volleyball almost as much as we do. Going out and playing here before we go on the road next weekend against bigger teams we have to play is a huge momentum push as we go in."
Penn State enters Wednesday's matchup against the Buckeyes on a 14-match winning streak. After opening the season at 2-3, the Nittany Lions have regrouped to remain undefeated in Big Ten conference play at 8-0.
"What's been clicking with the team is just our chemistry," White said. "More than anything, not even volleyball-related, it's just us. As a team, we've been clicking a lot better. We've been communicating better on and off the court and just fighting. It's our heart and our fight playing into our game."
The Lions hope to match the tenancy and determination of the Side-Out Foundation. When asked what they're goal was for Wednesday evening, White responded with one word."Win. That's what we plan on doing."