Christmas came a little late for a volleyball player at the University of Louisiana Monroe.
Albany Schaffer, a junior walk-on on the ULM Warhawks volleyball team, thought she was attending a regular team meeting when she got a surprise that will change her life.
#NewProfilePic pic.twitter.com/c84xhSHUHj— Albany Schaffer (@albschaffer21) October 2, 2018
Schaffer’s coach Russ Friedland had each player on his team draw a teammate's name out of a hat and write them an encouraging note. They went around in a circle and read them out loud, saving Schaffer for last.
You are and have been one of the most hard-working and dedicated players on this team. You are a great teammate and leader in this program. Today, your hard work pays off for the spring semester of 2019.
What Friedland's team didn’t know was that he had availability for one more full scholarship for the spring, and when Schaffer read her note, it was much more than just words of encouragement.
“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.”
Schaffer covered her mouth in shock and fought back tears to get through the last sentence: “You’re going on full athletic scholarship. Congratulations.”
Today, @albschaffer21 was rewarded for the unbelievable work she puts into our team! So proud of the example she sets for us each and every day! #signed #fullride #scholarship? ? @NCAAVolleyball @NCAA @AVCAVolleyball @espn @espnW @SunBelt @ULMWarhawks @ULM_Official pic.twitter.com/XFARrtKYg0— ULM Volleyball (@ULM_VB) January 15, 2019
But Schaffer’s reaction paled in comparison to her mom’s. When she called to tell her she was awarded the scholarship, her mother was actually speechless. Schaffer’s mother stared in stunned silence for several seconds before finally exclaiming, “Oh my God. Really? Best news ever!”
My mom is never quiet, so that was new to me too. She was speechless.
"I kept clicking on the screen because I thought my phone was frozen," Schaffer said. "My mom is never quiet, so that was new to me too. She was speechless."
Schaffer also called her dad who responded, “Oh, Albany! That is so awesome!”
Her teammates yelled in the background of the calls, “Yeah, Albs! You deserve this so much!”
"They were being the greatest teammates ever telling me how happy they were for me," Schaffer said. "Everyone was coming up and giving me hugs."
“Albany is one of the hardest working players on and off the court,” Friedland said. “She’s very eager, hungry to learn and isn’t afraid of being challenged. She’s the teammate everyone knows has their back.”
"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. "With this scholarship, I can really just focus on volleyball and school."
More than just some of the financial pressure being off, Schaffer said this scholarship is the icing on the cake of a long time dream.
"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."
Congratulations and keep up the great work, Albany!