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Schellenberg sisters find perfect fit at Belmont Abbey

By Greg Johnson

The name “Schellenberg” is all over the statistical sheet this fall for the Belmont Abbey women’s volleyball team.

Sisters Kay, Lydia and Hannah Schellenberg are making the most of their one season together in the Crusaders’ program that has already won a school-record 19 matches in 2012.

So, it isn’t unusual for one Schellenberg to record a dig, another have an assist and the third to register a kill in one sequence. Still, it is pretty special to witness when it does occur.

“It has gotten to be routine, but at the same time it is unique,” said Kay Schellenberg, a senior setter on the team. “To see all of us on the stat line is pretty cool.”

So far this season, Kay is averaging 11.2 assists per game. Hannah, a freshman, and Lydia, a junior, are the starting outside hitters, and they lead the Crusaders in kills with 268 and 200 kills, respectively, this fall.

All three are stellar students majoring in education. Kay and Lydia have earned President’s or Dean’s List recognition every semester, and Hannah is off to a strong start academically in her first semester.

Kay, who is scheduled to graduate in May, would like to teach in grades 4-6; Lydia is focusing on first through third grade; and Hannah is studying to teach children in middle school.

Kay Schellenberg, the oldest of eight siblings, will be celebrating her senior night Saturday. For the first time in her college career, both parents, Catherine and Tom, and her four younger brothers (ages 15, 11, 7 and 5) and youngest sister (age 9) will be in attendance.

Usually, only one of the parents and a few of the siblings can make the six-hour drive from Jacksonville, Fla., to the Charlotte, N.C., area. With a large family, schedules always conflict.

“It is crazy that it is senior night,” Kay Schellenberg said. “I can’t believe it is nearing the end. It is exciting, though, and will be a fun weekend.”

Kay was the first of the sisters to choose Division II Belmont Abbey, a Conference Carolinas member. The Schellenbergs were familiar with the school because an uncle played baseball there.

While she was being recruited in high school, Kay required her college choice to meet three requirements. “I was interested in going to a Catholic school that was relatively close to home where I could play volleyball,” Kay said. “I didn’t think I would be able to come here because the previous coach told me they didn’t have a spot open.”

But when one of the setters decided not to come after the winter break, Kay Schellenberg visited the campus.

“I loved it here,” Kay said. “It had everything I was looking for.”

At the same time Kay was arriving for her freshman year, Mary DeJute was taking over as the program’s head coach. The first season was a struggle, but the Crusaders won 18 matches in each of the next two seasons, the most in program history until this season.

“All of the players I came in with knew that we were part of building this program,” Kay said. “We’ve been waiting for our chance to be the leaders of the team. It’s been great to gradually build up to this season.”

Part of the building blocks included recruiting Lydia Schellenberg. Before she started the process, DeJute wanted to make sure Kay wouldn’t have any issues if her sister joined the team.

“I wanted to make sure it was OK because I didn’t want to change Kay’s college experience,” DeJute said. “She told me that she hoped I would recruit Lydia.”

Lydia Schellenberg had hoped the opportunity would arise. During her sophomore year in high school, she had an assignment to do a project on in college of her choice. She chose Belmont Abbey.

“I knew all along that I wanted to go a Catholic school and be in a strong volleyball program,” said Lydia, who also had recruiting overtures from Division I coaches. “I went through the recruiting process, and this was the best fit for me. Kay and I get along well together, and we’ve always played well together. It has all worked out.”

When it came time to recruit Hannah, DeJute again asked the sisters if they were OK with the idea of a third sibling entering the program. Again, the Schellenbergs provided a quick positive answer.

“Belmont Abbey gives me the balance I wanted academically, athletically and spiritually,” said Hannah, who also drew attention from Division I programs.

The three sisters were on the court at the same time for the first time this fall. They, along with their teammates, have a strong team bond. At times, knowing where each other is on the court comes naturally, especially for Kay, who runs the offense.

“Sometimes I’ll be on the run after a shanked pass, and I’ll throw up a set to the back row,” said Kay, whose father played baseball at Saint Leo and whose mother played tennis at North Florida – both of which were Division II programs at the time. “Both Lydia and Hannah can hit out of the back row well, and I know if I can throw it up, one of them will get it.”

They hope to put all their skills on display in front of the entire family this weekend. However, they know the car ride will be a wild one with all the kids in tow.

“Growing up, we all did a lot of babysitting and helped around the house,” Lydia said. “It is a great to grow up in a big family. We are all close. It is chaotic at times, but we all love each other and it is a lot of fun.”

Hannah joked: “It is never a dull moment. We really appreciate the peace and quiet we get at college because at home, there is none.”

With two weeks left in the regular season before the Conference Carolinas tournament, DeJute takes time to enjoy coaching the three Schellenberg sisters.

“The Schellenbergs are the epitome of what you would want in a student-athlete,” DeJute said. “They put a priority on their academics and their athletics. You don’t always get that from college kids.

“They are focused on what they want to accomplish in college. There is no pressure on them to be this way from anyone at the school. This is the way they were raised to be.”