Close friends since playing together on a premier club team, Hays High grad Albany Schaffer and Ness City product Regan Stiawalt followed similar college volleyball paths.
Both Schaffer and Stiawalt had their sights set on playing Division I volleyball and accepted walk-on opportunities out of high school, with Schaffer going to the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Stiawalt heading for Wichita State.
Three years later, Schaffer and Stiawalt were able to celebrate the most rewarding moments of their college careers together.
Both players found out last month that they were being put on scholarships for their respective programs.
“I got mine a few days before she got hers," Stiawalt said. "I sent her a message and I told her that I finally got it. She was so excited for me.
“And then I get on Twitter the next couple of days and I see this video of her and I just immediately broke into tears because I know how hard both of us have worked for this. College volleyball at the Division I level was always the goal for us, so we could just really relate to each other. It’s brought us super close.”
The video of Schaffer being told she had earned a scholarship received national media attention after being shared heavily on social media.
Schaffer, a defensive specialist who just completed her junior season with the Warhawks, was surprised with the news during what she thought was a routine team meeting. In the video, she read aloud a note that praised her contributions to the team.
“You are and have been one of the most hard-working and dedicated players on this team,” the note read. “You are a great teammate and leader in this program. Today, your hard work pays off for the spring semester of 2019.
“You’re going on full athletic scholarship. Congratulations.”
Schaffer, who was fighting back tears after reading the note, then informed her parents of the news via FaceTime in another emotional clip.
Schaffer had a big role for the Warhawks this past season, finishing third on the team in digs with 259, averaging 2.64 digs per set.
She told ABC News that the scholarship was a huge relief.
"I was working as a waitress in the offseason and trying to pick up shifts to pay rent. Even little things like books get expensive and a lot of times I'd have to share with someone," Schaffer said told ABC. "With this scholarship, I can really just focus on volleyball and school.
"Ever since I was little it was my dream to play Division 1 volleyball," Schaffer said. "I feel like I'm exactly where I need to be."
Seeing Schaffer earn her scholarship brought a feeling of deja vu for Stiawalt, who had recently become familiar with the excitement of earning a scholarship.
“I got tears in my eyes," said Stiawalt, an outside hitter for the Shockers. "I planned on playing in college but I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not. “They told me over break and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I told my parents and they couldn’t have been more happy.”
Despite suffering a rash of injuries, Stiawalt persevered at Wichita State.
“My first year I broke my foot, so that took a while to get back from,” Stiawalt said. “After that, we decided the redshirt was probably the best idea. And then I actually broke my other foot the start of the next season. Then once I got back from that I got a pretty good concussion from getting hit by my coach in the head from a spike, so that took me out for the rest of the season.
"Then this past season, I had injuries, but not as bad. I had a pretty bad ankle sprain that took me out for a couple weeks at the end of double days. And then I tore my labrum at the end of the season, but I played through that and rehabbed every single day."
Stiawalt made the most of her opportunity during her redshirt sophomore season last year. She played her way into a starting role and notched 136 kills for the Shockers on the season.
“I think the biggest thing is just how fast it is," Stiawalt said of the biggest adjustment to Division I volleyball. "It’s not even close to high school and not even club of how fast everything is. Everything has to be so on point. You can’t be off by a foot, or not even that — it just messes up everything. Precision is everything.
“It’s just taken me awhile to just get used to the speed and how precise everything has to be.”
Stiawalt will look to play an ever bigger role for WSU in 2019 and is hoping to help the Shockers improve on a 14-18 record from this past season.
“The season didn’t go how we wanted it to,” Stiawalt said. “We were planning on doing better in conference and making it to the NCAA Tournament. But it was great to get on the floor and be able to help my team from that point of view. We definitely have higher expectations for this coming season and we’ll be working on all that this spring.”