The Good Word | by Jon Cooper
Like pretty much all incoming freshman in any sport, Lauren Frerking admitted that one of the hardest things about her first year playing college volleyball was getting used to the speed of the game.
Like pretty much all outgoing seniors, Frerking admitted that one of the hardest things about her final year playing college volleyball was getting used to the speed of the season.
The 6-2 middle blocker from Johns Creek (Wesleyan High School) plays her senior night match, Friday night when Georgia Tech (15-10, 4-8), hosts No. 10, and ACC-leading Pittsburgh (23-1, 11-1) at O’Keefe Gym. The match begins at 7 p.m. and kicks off the weekend on the Flats — the Jackets will host Virginia (7-15, 3-9) on Sunday, beginning at noon.
“It’s just crazy that it’s already here. The season has just flown by,” she said. “They say it goes by fast but you don’t realize it until you’re actually in it and going through it.
“As a freshman it’s hard to even imagine yourself as a senior because you think, ‘Three, four years from now is such a long way away,’ and it’s really not,” she added. “I’ve always been confident in my abilities and what I could do given the right opportunity at the right time. It’s just a matter of being patient and trusting the process, controlling what I can control and being the best teammate and leader that I could possibly be at the time, even then. I just wanted to be in the moment then and be the best player I could then. But that was a long time ago. It’s hard to even remember what freshman Lauren was like.”
Head coach Michelle Collier has an easier time remembering. She’s enjoyed watching Frerking progress.
“I am so proud of Lauren and what she has accomplished here at Tech on and off the court,” said Collier. “She has played so many different roles within our program and they were all so important to our growth. She has been a true example that hard work pays off. She has brought her game to a level that is respected by our opponents and she continues to get better on a daily basis.”
On Friday night, Collier and the entire team will get the chance to give the team’s lone senior a proper salute. It’s a night Lauren is excited about but also is keeping in perspective.
“We’re just playing to win, honestly,” she said. It’s going to be a really fun night playing Pitt but it’s also going to be a little sad when it’s over. It’s very exciting but it’s also bittersweet. Playing at O’Keefe on Friday night, there’s no feeling like it so it’s something that I’m definitely going to miss.”
The Yellow Jackets host the Panthers in the first of their final three home matches — Virginia comes in Sunday, followed by Syracuse next Sunday to complete the home slate before Tech finishes the season at Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
While the Panthers have been tough this season and tough on the Jackets in years past — they’re 6-1 and have won the past six matches — Frerking believes the Jackets won’t be intimidated.
“We’re going to fight and we’re going to give them our best shot,” she said. “They showed against Duke last weekend that they’re beatable. (the Blue Devils upended the Panthers, 3-1, last week in Durham) They’re human. They’re college-age girls, just like us. So we’re going to give them our best shot and I think it’s going to be a really fun match. It’s always fun playing against really good teams because both teams step up to the challenge. It’s just really fun playing volleyball in that kind of environment.”
Frerking has banked away plenty of great memories of playing in that environment at O’Keefe over her four years, during which the Jackets are 43-18, a .705 win percentage (they’re 21-15, .583 in ACC play). Going down memory lane is fun, picking just one favorite memory, not so much.
“That’s tough. Beating Georgia is always the greatest feeling,” she said with a smile. Frerking went 3-1 career vs. UGA, including this year’s 3-2 win at O’Keefe when she had four kills and hit .667. “But last year, beating (No. 17) Michigan State, who was ranked very highly here at the beginning of the season, that was incredible because we just went out there and played relaxed and had fun with it, which is what I feel like we can definitely do against Pitt, too. I’m really hoping that after Friday night that will be my highlight of my four years here.”
Frerking’s had her moments this season. She recorded the first double-digit-kills matches of her career, nailing 10 in back-to-back matches, Oct. 21, at Miami, where she mashed at a .500 clip, then Oct. 26, against North Carolina. The latter helped the Jackets sweep last weekend. She’s excited to continue riding that wave of momentum.
“Our confidence is high. We’re in a good groove right now,” she said. “It’s the best time of the season to be playing our best volleyball and that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to carry over the momentum from last weekend and go into this match with tons of energy, tons of confidence and play to win. We’re excited.”
Frerking is excited about graduation, which is on course for the spring, when she’ll receive her degree in business administration, but has put off that celebration, choosing to focus on what achievements still await on the volleyball court.
“In the spring school will be my top priority,” she said. “I have started thinking about, but am not really focusing as much on plans after college. I’m focusing on the season right now and finishing it up strong. I’ll have time for all that once the season is over. Right now I’m just trying to enjoy it and try to keep it simple and not be overloaded with responsibilities. Right now I’m just juggling school and volleyball. In the spring, it’s hunkering down on school and finishing up strong with that.”
She considers her volleyball career a success, viewing it through the prism of the team and what she’s brought to it.
“I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job,” she said. “Anything I could do to help the team win is what I’ve tried to do. Whether that means me going out there and having a good game or doing whatever it takes for me to help my teammates play their best game. I’ve tried to stay confident, be an example for everyone else so that that that rubs off on them, seeing me play confidently.”
Collier believes plenty of Frerking work ethic and attitude has rubbed off.
“Lauren has become a player that is respected and admired by our staff and her teammates not only for who she is but what for what she does on court as well,” she said. “I hope our younger players are learning from her. She will definitely leave the jersey better than she found when she finishes her last match as a Yellow Jacket. I am grateful to have had the chance to learn from her.”