Northern Star: Caitlin Schneeweis and Ashley Larson

For this week's segment, we feature two hitters who are cousins playing their first season together on the St. Scholastica volleyball team.

DULUTH, Minn. – Family is the most important thing for St. Scholastica volleyball players Ashley Larson and Caitlin Schneeweis.

“We call ourselves a big commune. We’re just one big family. Everyone’s invited, even if they come into the family,” Larson, a right side for the Saints, said.

The cousins have been playing volleyball together since the sixth grade and went on to share the court together at Duluth Denfeld.

“Off the court, we’re like best friends. She’s my cousin which is awesome and it helps the chemistry on the court,” Schneeweis, an outside hitter for the Saints, said.

“She’s always the person that if I’m feeling down, I know I can go to her and if she’s feeling down on the court, then I know what to do to cheer her up,” Larson added

During their senior seasons, Schneeweis committed to Division II program University of Mary, while Larson decided to stay home and play at St. Scholastica.

“I actually came to CSS because my sister came here and we just wanted to keep it in the family, keep it close to home and I really liked Dana and the team,” Larson said.

After a year away, Schneeweis decided it was time to return home and rejoin her cousin on the court at St. Scholastica.

“It’s just where I grew up. I have a huge family, I’m super close with my family. All of my friends are here, it’s just so fun to see the community at games and everything,” Schneeweis said.

But before the cousins could play their first season back together last fall, the COVID pandemic pushed the volleyball season back to the spring. Then Schneeweis tore her ACL.

“I did have to slow down a little bit and now just coming back, it’s still more challenging but it’s a challenge either way I feel like,” Schneeweis said.

“When Caitlin was going through rehab, it was a constant check in on where she was, how she’s doing and when she called me to let me know that she was getting ready to come back and she had been released, it brought tears to my eyes and to all the coaches because when you watch someone go through that injury, and you feel their pain,” head coach Dana Moore said.

Now, with a full fall season and Schneeweis working back from her injury, her and Larson are finally reunited.

“I never expected to play with her again so it’s so fun to have that opportunity,” Schneeweis said.

“She wasn’t playing last year and that was kind of a bummer that she came back and we couldn’t play together. It was like a dream that she was coming back home,” Larson added.

Although the two play different positions, their chemistry has helped the team find success.

“We’re on different sides of the court usually but we still communicate regularly on the court which helps to be cousins, it helps with chemistry,” Schneeweis said.

“In a lot of ways, I feel like they’re more than cousins, they’re almost like sisters. But with them being cousins, you see differences in them. But their connection is really special in what they have,” Moore added.

While that connection has also led them to their own individual success and growth.

“I think personally, I’ve gotten myself more confident through the years which is a personal thing on and off the court for me,” Larson said.

“My goal for the rest of the season is to increase my comfort level with getting back into the game and with this group of girls again,” Schneeweis added.

And they said accomplishing those goals has been made easier with their family by their side.

“It’s really nice being able to look into the stands and having a large supporting group up there at every single game. Just having that big group of people, knowing that every time I step onto the court, I’ll have someone there to support me,” Larson said.

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