From the same pack

Freshman volleyball player Justine Schepler, pictured, and her brother, junior football player Jason Schepler, try to support each other as much as possible as NIU athletes.

By Jerry Burnes

It’s not out of the ordinary to see siblings attending the same the college no matter the age difference. Being a student-athlete tends to complicate that system, as the siblings might find their student-athlete needs are met at different schools.

This is not the case for Jason and Justine Schepler, who, despite being two years apart and in different sports, have both found their place as Division I athletes at NIU.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Justine, a freshman on the volleyball team. “I’m already known as ‘Schepler’s little sister.'”

The brother-sister relationship isn’t a rivalry at all. Instead, it’s more of a support system. Jason, a junior on the football team, has hustled back from many practices to make the Huskies’ home games at Victory E. Court. Justine, in the same respect, watched the football team beat North Dakota just hours after a tournament in Elon, NC.

“I’ve been trying to go to all I can,” Jason said.

Their parents, William and Susan, have a more complicated system to work through.

“They were scouting out the season and actually mapping it out, which games they would go to,” Jason said. “They make all the football games since there are less games.”

The Scheplers have enjoyed more than just watching each other in action. Both of their teams have seen a great amount of success so far in 2010.

The football team is off to a 3-2 start with an upset win over Big Ten foe Minnesota on Sept. 25 and a close loss the week before to in-state rival Illinois.

For the younger Schepler, the volleyball has turned heads with a 17-2 start, including an 11-match win streak to open the season and a win over Big Ten opponent Iowa.

Just call it a continuation from the success they had at Sycamore High School, where Jason and Justine graduated. Their parents actually still reside in Sycamore, making NIU a home away from home of sorts.

After moving out of the residence halls, the elder Schepler moved back home where he feels more comfortable and can save money. Justine makes the short trip home on weekends.

It’s that off-field relationship that has proved the most helpful, especially when Justine was still an incoming freshman.

“I had a bunch of questions before I started,” she said. “I didn’t feel stupid asking him. He’s been really supportive.”

Justine plans to major in accounting as she progresses at NIU. Her decision to join Jason as a Huskie, she said, had nothing to do with big brother already attending NIU.

The former Sycamore team captain had to make a tough decision between NIU and James Madison University, both of which offered her scholarships.

“Deep down I knew it was the right choice,” she said. “My gut told me to come here, and I’m really happy that I did.”