The Badger Volleyball team is off to a great start under new head coach Kelly Sheffield. UW is 11-1 and starts Big Ten play Friday at home against Purdue.
Outside hitter Courtney Thomas has battled an abdominal injury this fall but dealing with adversity on the court is nothing compared to the tragedy she has overcome to live her dream of playing college volleyball.
Courtney Thomas' childhood was filled with sports and it started with her dad.
"Since he got me into sports, I was close to him," said the 20-year-old.
The first 13 years of the Delklab, Ill. native's life were good. She made happy memories with her mom, dad and younger brother, but that all changed in June of 2006.
Thomas' dad, Jaceson Thomas, a construction worker, was killed in a tragic construction accident while he was trying to help a co-worker whose truck was stuck in the mud.
Thomas remembers seeing her mom sitting outside. "I said to her 'he is gone' and she is like 'yeah.'" My grandma would stay with us and my brother and I would sleep in my mom's bed," said Thomas.
Courtney was at a cross roads, she had just started playing elite competitive club volleyball however, she was facing adversity no 13 -year-old should have to. But with family support she returned to the court.
"I don't know where I would be if I didn't have sports, really happy that I chose the path I did," said Thomas.
Thomas went on to earn a Division 1 volleyball scholarship and chose Wisconsin in part because it was close to home so her mom could watch her play.
"When he passed away my mom had to take on that role and she had to take me to practice an hour away. My mom is my rock. She has done everything for me to be here. I am sad, but I have to go on with my life, time doesn't stop. So I think since my dad was so into sports, me living out his passion only helps me think of him," said Thomas.
Thomas can't change her past, but the family studies and human development major plans help to honor her dad in the the future.
"He was such a helper, all he wanted (was to) help people. He died because he was helping someone else. I want to be able to help someone and make a difference in their life because my dad was making a difference in other people's (lives) too," said Thomas.