After a long two weeks of travel, the Wisconsin Badgers (15-3, 4-2 Big Ten) finally return home as they host No. 16 Michigan (12-5, 2-4 Big Ten) for their annual Breast Cancer Awareness match Friday at 7 p.m.
Wisconsin welcomes Michigan, who was in the final four last year. The Badgers open a four-match home stand and continue their six-match stretch against ranked teams. UW is one of only three teams in the country that will play six straight matches against top-25 teams in 2013.
Wisconsin also continues to climb up in the rankings under head coach Kelly Sheffield, taking over No.15 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top-25 Coaches’ poll, making this the Badgers highest ranking since 2008.
“It feels really good,” junior Courtney Thomas said. “Our expectations are really high, not saying 15 isn’t good, but we definitely want to get higher, keep moving up in those ranks. But for right now it feels really good.”
Michigan is focused heavily on its offense and Sheffield knows they have to play a strong game this Friday.
“ Michigan is one of the top offenses in the conference with a really diverse team,” Sheffield said. “They have some big bangers. The biggest thing we are going to have to do is keep their hitting percentage down from what they’ve been doing, because they have been tearing everybody up. This match is big if we want to stay and battle for a Big Ten championship.”
Before the match, the Badgers will honor former Badger volleyball player Margie Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was a four-year letterwinner for Wisconsin from 1984-87. She still holds season and career records for service aces. In 1991 she served as the interim head coach leading the team to a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Fitzpatrick fought breast cancer twice and passed away in December of 2004 from the disease. Each year, Wisconsin Athletics recognizes Fitzpatrick and her family.
“It is always important to stop and take a moment and realize how blessed we are,” sophomore Taylor Morey said. “We’re sending out a prayer for all those who are fighting.”
Along with honoring her family, Wisconsin Athletics is handing out pink bracelets to the first 1000 fans. It is also Student Night on Friday paired with National Chocolate Cupcake day. All students will receive a free chocolate cupcake upon entry.