PARAMUS, N.J. — When you are the best female high school volley player in the state of New Jersey you get to graduate early, go to college on a full athletic scholarship and be featured by Gatorade as the 2015-2016 state volleyball player of the year .
Such is the case for 17-year-old Maria Bellinger of Paramus.
The 6"1 outside hitter will be heading off to the University of Delaware next Sunday to play for the Division 1 volleyball team — a scholarship she accepted the summer before her junior year.
"My family jokes that I grew up on the volleyball court," said Bellinger, whose mother, the former Fair Lawn coach, would bring her along to practice. "I've been playing for as long as I can remember."
Bellinger has helped lead the Paramus Spartans to a league championship every year since she first started playing her freshman year.
This past season, her final one, she helped lead the Spartans to a state sectional championship.
Bellinger's Delaware coaches asked that she start a semester early to practice with the team, and prepare for the fall season.
"I'm nervous just like any kid my age would be nervous when they're about to leave for school," Bellinger told Daily Voice. "But I am excited to be in a new environment and to get to know new people."
The athlete's arrival on campus will bring her athletic career full circle.
"Playing volleyball has taught me that hard work does pay off and that you can always keep pushing," Bellinger said. "Work ethic is a reflection of your character."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.