Liz Schuster grew up steeped in the lore of Long Beach Poly sports culture–now she’s a major part of it.
She spent her childhood years going to Jackrabbit football games. In 2012 her older brother, Gasetoto “G-Mac” Schuster, and cousin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, were key players in Poly’s CIF championship run and Liz was there for all of it. She was at all the games and is even in the background of a now-locally famous picture of Smith-Schuster with his family behind him in the bleachers. She was also on the field for the team’s Thanksgiving practice.
“I was happy because it was Thanksgiving so I thought I wouldn’t have practice,” said Schuster. “But my dad woke me up so I could go run laps around the Poly practice that day until they were done.”
Those scenes show the two sides of Schuster: an incredibly hard worker and someone who bleeds green and gold.
“It all started clicking for me with the way they worked, and they made high school seem so fun,” said Scuster. “My whole life I knew I was going to Poly–it’s been the same thing for me here, it’s one big happy family and I’m so glad I get to be a part of it.”
She’s been a big part of the volleyball team’s success the last four years as the team’s starting setter, making the varsity squad as a freshman. Lakewood had won the two league championship before Schuster arrived and now the Jackrabbits have shared two of the last three crowns with the Lancers. Schuster’s play has been good enough to earn a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton.
“She’s the best setter I’ve ever had and I’ve had some amazing setters,” said longtime Poly coach Leland McGrath. “She competes with a tremendous amount of heart and pride and she’s super talented. I’ve trained around guys like Karch Kiraly and she trains like them.”
Around campus she’s known for being one of the members of the school’s volleyball team and, of course, for being Smith-Schuster’s cousin.
“Oh definitely some people know JuJu is my cousin, they bring him up in the funniest way,” she said. “One time we were eating at lunch and this kid comes up and goes, ‘What’s your last name?’ When I told him he said, ‘Oh that last name goes hard.’ Kids will try to get me to bring him to Poly or get his number so they can call him.”
While the association brings some extra conversations for Schuster it’s also brought some special bonuses for she and her teammates. The Steelers receiver has an endorsement deal with Pizza Hut and he and his parents had 50 pizzas delivered for Poly’s Senior Night.
“Everyone was taking pizzas home, it was so much,” said Schuster.
The team also got matching duffel bags and knee pads as a gift from their setter’s cousin.
“It meant a lot to me and to the team,” said Schuster.
It would mean a lot to Schuster and her teammates to go into Lakewood and get a win this week as well–it would give Poly their first non-shared league championship since 2012.