It starts with volleyball, but it doesn’t end there.
The volleyball team won’t be the only team promoting breast cancer awareness Thursday at its eighth-annual Dig Pink match. Players from the baseball team, men’s basketball team and more will file into the College Park Center at 6:30 p.m. to watch UTA play Texas State University, a conference opponent in the top three of the Sun Belt Conference standings.
While this point in the season is critical for UTA, as the match comes at the halfway point in the conference schedule, winning, for once, can take a back seat.
“My mom’s mom passed away from breast cancer when my mom was 19 years old,” junior setter Cassidy Wheeler said. “That’s something really hard, because I’m 19, and I can’t even imagine losing my mom, so I think it’s very important to find a cure so people aren’t left with their moms passing away at a young age.”
About 1 in 8 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer according to the American Cancer Society and, next to lung cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. While death rates from breast cancer have been declining since the late ’80s, there is still a 3 percent chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death.
This is why October is dedicated to raising donations for breast cancer research. From the NFL to UTA, sports teams are often seen covered in pink apparel, the likes of which volleyball fans will see Thursday at the College Park Center.
“I have multiple family members who are going through it just in this year alone,” redshirt freshman middle blocker Zhanelle Geathers said. “It’s good to be behind big events like this and raise money to support bringing awareness.”
Last season, UTA raised $5,191.22 for the Side-Out Foundation, a fundraising website for breast cancer clinical trials , and swept Texas State in front of 1,251 fans, the College Park Center’s largest volleyball crowd to date.
Senior infielder Darien McLemore, Student Athletes Advisory Committee president, said the team expects to raise at least $3,000 this year, but is hoping for a much more.
“Anytime you can raise money and awareness for a good cause, I think it’s awesome,” men’s basketball head coach Scott Cross said. “I definitely commend the volleyball team as well the Athletics department on trying to make it a big event and have one of the biggest crowds of the year and hopefully they can raise some money and some awareness for it.”
Like Wheeler and Geathers, Cross has also been affected by breast cancer. His mother, Mary Cross, is a breast cancer survivor, and Cross said sporting events like Thursday’s volleyball match are a great resource for raising awareness.
“Sports are something that is put on such a high stage that when people watch it, we really have a chance to spread positive messages, whether it’s breast cancer or whatever it may be,” sophomore guard Nathan Hawkins said. “So when there’s an opportunity for us to use our status as athletes to get a message out, we should definitely jump on it and use it.”
The volleyball team is doing just that Thursday when the boxscore from a match might not mean as much as the cause it is supporting.