June 19, 2020 – By NJP

One of the joys of running a community volleyball website at NJP is that we get to interact with many players, coaches and fans. Some late night score checking, tournament updates, or just those “how is the season going” instagram messages to stay in touch are usual events. Sometimes those interactions are all business and sometimes we get a glimpse into what’s going on in a players head outside of volleyball. We will chat about college choices, give words of encouragement, or be able to give support when someone just needs somebody to listen.

It’s astounding to us that we continue to get surprised when certain information gets unearthed outside of volleyball. Our site’s main focus is volleyball stats and analysis. We interpret data on specific players and know those players by how many kills they had or how many aces served. The surprises come when we get into discussions or uncover information that goes far beyond the stats. We find out that some players are dealing with certain things in their lives that we can’t anticipate. And we end up with one opinion usually… those players are superheroes.

Lauren Freitas falls into this category. From the stands at Union High School, she looks like a talented and athletic leader on the court. At her club, she plays an inspired libero role leading the defense with composure and acrobatics. At Union, she plays outside hitter and rarely comes off the floor. But there is another side of Lauren that you can’t see from the stands.

Lauren is proud of her contributions off the court. And she should be. She is the classic “do for others” type that is typically bred by a solid parent with strong values. She is the first to step up and lead fundraisers or drives to help less fortunate kids. She aspires to be an allied health professional and be there for others when they are sick or need help. She masters multiple languages including English, Spanish, and Sign, as well as currently learning French to be best prepared to interact with as many that need her help. The fact that she knows sign language is a trademark of her life. Both her parents are deaf and have persevered through adversity to raise Lauren.

Lauren lives with her Mom currently and she gives most of the credit to her for setting the tone for her life. She continues to work tirelessly to give Lauren a good home and is an amazing role model. She has distilled in Lauren that you can accomplish anything with hard work and determination. And Love.

In today’s world, it’s easy for all of us to look at our situation with COVID-19 and feel sorry for ourselves. But we left our conversations with Lauren feeling inspired. Her positive can-do spirit while taking care of others first is something that should give us all perspective. As we finished our discussion, I basically told her I was very proud of her. I know I have no right to feel that pride because we only met three days ago but it was a parting gift she gave to me to allow me to think that way.

As she enters her senior year, there remains an extra level of uncertainty about the upcoming season due to world conditions. For Lauren, her main focus is to at least have the experience of senior night. Where she can show her appreciation for her Mom and all she has done for her while getting recognized as a leader in a game she loves to play. A perfect match. We hope to be there to see it and wish her well.

Here is our interview with Ms. Freitas…

Hi Lauren… Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Lauren Freitas, I’m 17 years old and live in Union township. I’m an upcoming senior playing for Union High School and have been on their varsity for the last 3 years. I live here in Union with my mother and her family. My life can be a little hectic at times but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?

I’ve been playing volleyball since 7th grade. I started at my old middle school, Saint James the Apostle School with an amazing Coach, Mrs. Dolansky. I’ve loved the sport since and been playing year after year trying my best to get better. Growing up I’ve been put in every sport like soccer or softball but volleyball is something I picked up for myself and never stopped playing.

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?

For high school, I am a six rotation outside hitter. Being 5’6 and playing outside can be quite difficult at times but I always try my best to find new workouts to try and get my vertical up. My coach would also put me in to play opposite to switch some things up and I loved being someone who he could use for other positions. For club, I’m currently at AVVC and am playing as a Libero. I much rather prefer this position because I love running the defense. Playing defense gives me a thrill because you’re always on your toes. Serve receive then you run to go cover, then you get ready for defense. You never really know what’s going to happen so you have to go for everything.

What else would you like us to know about you?

I want to be a nurse practitioner specializing in pediatrics when I grow up. I’ve always liked kids and try to help them whenever they need it so I think it will be a good fit for me. I speak 3 languages fluently including English, Spanish, and ASL, and am taking French and hope to speak it well by the time I graduate. (My parent are deaf). I hope to play for a D2 school but am prioritizing my education first so the college I choose will have to be one that fits with my intended major.

How are you and your family dealing with the current world situation with COVID-19? Are you expecting a normal Fall high school season schedule?

My family like most are struggling a bit but we are pushing through. We are all still working but taking every precaution available like wearing masks or gloves when dealing with customers, washing our
clothes constantly, or applying hand sanitizer. Everyone has a role in our family but still finds time to relax and be together. I doubt that we will have a “normal season” which is kind of sad considering it is
going to be my senior year. As long as I have something that resembles a senior night I will be happy and am looking forward to this season.

How will your high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success?

I hope we do well! A good part of the original line up has changed since our seniors have graduated. I’m playing with a couple of different players considering that 2 other seniors are on the lineup sheet and the rest is JV players coming up but they show great potential (some are seniors). I’m excited for them to play the next level and am hopeful that they will rise to the occasion. I think the key to success will be our communication and our intensity. If we fight for every point and play with heart I think we will do fine.

Tell us about your Union teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?

Last year, I played alongside two juniors Ronaya Moore and Patricia Falar. They’re definitely some players to watch and were really fun to play with. I’m playing with a rather new team since all of the seniors that left made up most of the lineup but I’m looking forward to playing with the players that are moving up and see a good amount of potential.

Who is your support group?

My support group would definitely be my mom. She has always pushed me to be the best I can be and invested a lot of time and money into me. Although she doesn’t make it to my games often I know she will always support me and wishes she could be there more often. My senior night will definitely be an emotional night for both of us but I just hope that I can make her proud. She has sacrificed so much for me and continues to work all day so that I can have a future that she never had the opportunity to have.

What is your favorite inspirational video that you like to watch before games?

I love watching top libero plays. Whenever I watch videos like this it reminds me to go for everything and at least get a touch. I see these liberos muster up every ounce of energy to dive and get a ball up
and it makes me play that much harder. If I play harder and make every point count I know it will have a positive impact on my team as well.

What are your other hobbies?

My hobbies aside from playing volleyball whenever I can, would be volunteering and doing anything I can to help me secure a nursing job in the future. I am in Allied Health and am often participating in
many things. I led the committee for a children’s toy drive for Saint Barnabas and was thrilled with the outcome. I wanted to do so many more things in my junior year but unfortunately, it was cut short due to COVID-19. I’m planning on running for a position for office my senior year and am excited to be more hands-on.

Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club Tryout Results-18s

Do you play other sports? (if so, which ones?)

During the off-season, I love playing beach or grass volleyball. I often go down to a college with a group of friends and play all day. It’s really interesting to see the difference between all of them. Beach would be my second favorite after indoors because you can really focus on yourself and it’s a bit easier to fix some things you were struggling with before. Not only this but since there are only two people on the court it makes you move faster and helps your court awareness.

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