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Softball star Friedman gives it her all on court

By Tim Haran Daily Planet Correspondent
Wednesday November 14, 2001

After taking a year off from volleyball, Emily Friedman approached Berkeley High coach Justin Caraway this summer and asked him if she could play for the team again for her senior season. 

In his mind it wasn’t a question of if she could play, but rather when she could start. 

“I told her right then that she’d be a starter,” he said. “She’s an incredible athlete who is physically very gifted.” 

Friedman, who began playing volleyball in the seventh grade, played for Caraway’s team during her freshman and sophomore seasons but sat out last year to focus on her sport of choice – softball. 

The dedication paid off and Friedman landed a scholarship to play second base for the University of Wisconsin, Madison softball team. 

“I knew when I was 8 years old that’s what I wanted to do,” she said of her upcoming collegiate career on the softball diamond.  

Recruited by Pac-10 and Ivy League schools, Friedman chose the Big 10’s Wisconsin primarily because she “fell in love with the coaching staff,” especially sixth season head coach Karen Gallagher.  

“Everyone I’ve talked to has just said awesome things about her,” Friedman said. “She really knows what she’s doing, was a great player herself and seems like she’d be a good friend.” 

To prepare for next season, Friedman’s currently working on strength conditioning and improving her hitting. She’s lifting weights and spending three days a week with a hitting coach – that’s after practicing two hours a day with her volleyball team. 

“Infielders are a dime a dozen,” she said, “but if you can hit you can play.” 

Shortly before her freshman season at Berkeley, Friedman severely injured her left knee while playing volleyball on her Golden Bear club team. It was that injury that put in focus exactly what she wanted to accomplish and what she needed to do to reach that goal. 

“I missed a whole season of softball,” Friedman said. “I never realized what I took for granted. It took me nine months to get back.” 

Friedman said she’s a competitive person by nature and that she’s now back to full strength this season, even going so far as to say that her injured knee is stronger than her healthy one, and she can focus on the volleyball playoffs. 

“Her desire to win is as strong as any athlete I’ve coached,” Caraway said. “Had she decided to stick with volleyball, I’m sure she’d be going to college on a full volleyball scholarship.” 

Indeed, for an athlete who lists volleyball a distant second on her athletic resume, Friedman’s no stranger to success on the court. As a senior on a Berkeley team that went undefeated in league for the second consecutive year, she recorded 146 digs and blasted 32 aces in 265 service attempts while committing just seven errors, the fewest on the team. She even added 128 assists despite switching from setter to defensive specialist after the third game of the season. 

“All around she’s the most consistent,” Caraway said. “She just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.” 

In an effort to make her more of an offensive threat, Caraway said that he’s working with Friedman on a jump serve for the playoffs. 

Friedman recognizes that a key component to being a good athlete is exhibiting confidence in competition. She’s set goals for herself that demonstrate her will to win, but takes a tempered approach to thinking past her collegiate career. 

“I’m not leaving Madison until I’m an All-American, I can tell you that,” she said. “That’s my next goal, then after those four years we’ll see.” 

Already she’s prepared for the dramatic differences between softball at the high school and collegiate level. Friedman, who’s not playing softball for Berkeley High this season, plays for a competitive club team in San Jose. It’s nothing like what she’s expecting next fall. 

“High school softball is very, very different,” she said. “In terms of competition, how things are run and in college the sport is year-round. You lift weights, practice every day and live with your team.” 

In the classroom anatomy and biology are two of Friedman’s favorite classes and she’s planning to start on her pre-med requirements next fall at Wisconsin, but added that her major “will probably change a few times.” 

Meanwhile, back to the matter at hand. After a disappointing first-round lost in the North Coast Section playoffs last season, the ’Jackets faced off against Antioch on Tuesday and won 3-1 to advance to the semi-final round on Thursday. 

“We’re definitely a team that could win NCS this year,” Friedman said. “But on any given day anyone who comes out strong and with the most energy could win.” 

In getting to this point Berkeley, in particular, worked on its ball control this season and greatly improved its passing, a direct result of adding Friedman to the ’Jackets’ lineup. 

“Emily’s the best passer on our team, the best defender and she wants to be good at whatever she does,” Caraway said.