Sept. 26, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- With the non-conference season over, the Wisconsin volleyball team is preparing for its home Big Ten Conference opener this weekend. The Badgers (11-1) kick of another tough season of Big Ten play at home against Purdue (9-2) Friday and face Indiana (8-3, 0-1) Saturday, both at 7 p.m. in the Field House.
This weekend marks an exciting beginning for first-year head coach Kelly Sheffield as he launches his Big Ten career with Wisconsin, facing some of the toughest teams in the country. Sheffield is no stranger to Big Ten teams as he has faced at least one Big Ten team his last seven years at Dayton and Albany, achieving a 4-13 record against conference foes.
After playing a variety of teams from different conferences during the non-conference season, Sheffield is looking ahead to Big Ten play.
"You're not really getting up for a Big Ten team and then going down to a different conference for a few matches. You're playing back to back against some of the best programs in the country," said Sheffield.
"I'm stoked to go against (the Big Ten). I think our players are (too). That's why you come to this conference to play against and with the best. We're looking forward to this opportunity."
Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28, 7 p.m.
After losing their first match of the season against Kansas on Sept. 13, Sheffield's team is on a five-match winning streak, including a first-place finish at the NC State Invitational this past weekend.
"(We) had a good weekend out there at NC State and got challenged by three really good teams," said Sheffield. "(I) thought we played pretty well. I thought we had our moments of battling and figuring out ways to win."
The team welcomed junior Crystal Graff back this past weekend after she missed the first nine matches of the season with a foot injury. But Sheffield continues to play with an unsettled lineup due to other injuries. This doesn't seem to worry him too much.
"Well, we're getting healthier," said Sheffield. "We're not going to get any more bodies back than what we had this past weekend... What we've got is what we're going with, but I think there's a confidence. We've been through this a few times and we've come out with some wins. So there's not a panic of people that are missing or somebody's not going to be in there and people are worried about it. There's a lot of confidence that's been gained based on every single week (that the lineup) has been different."
Friday not only marks the beginning of Big Ten play but also the continuation of a time-honored tradition. Each year, Wisconsin honors former head coach Steve Lowe in its conference opener. Lowe, who was 108-64 from 1986-90, led the team to its first Big Ten title, NCAA tournament appearance and national ranking in 1990. Lowe, who passed away from lung cancer in 1991, is also remembered with the Steve Lowe Memorial Scholarship, given each year to a play who personifies Lowe's love for the game. Senior Annemarie Hickey is this year's recipient.
The Badgers are 15-7 in 22 Steve Lowe night matches.