Dec. 6, 1996

Friedlund Adjusts to New Role

by Brenda McGuire

Good role models and positive leadership are hard to come by these days. It takes a lot of work, especially if you're a member of a team sport and your role is to provide support for your teammates at all times.

One of the best role models around is Michigan State senior Stephanie Friedlund.

The Jackson, Mich., native provides the emotional and spiritual foundation for the Spartan volleyball team. She does not see a lot of playing time after having surgery last year on her right shoulder, but she is a major contributor to the team's well being.

"When I first came in as a freshman and sophomore, I played a lot," said Friedlund, who made the team as a walk-on in 1993. "But last year, I had shoulder surgery and it hasn't been the same. I don't feel any less part of the team than anyone else. I always give 100 percent."

Friedlund appeared in 14 matches and 16 games as a back row player last season. She had to miss the final six matches because of her shoulder, which she kept dislocating.

"Stephanie is a great team player," said MSU head coach Chuck Erbe. "It has been a tough career for her. She played a major role her freshman year then injured her shoulder. It made a difference on her impact with the team.

"But she is a good role model and provides good senior leadership working with the younger players. I'm sure it has been tough on her. I admire her for the way she has dealt with this and the way she can contribute out on the court."

So far this season, Friedlund has not seen any game action, but continues to maintain a positive attitude.

"Being a senior, I feel I have to keep the team up and mediate between the younger and older players to keep things in perspective," she said. "I'm not the team mom, but I hope my teammates know thay can come to me for help. I set an example by actions and work hard on the court and at getting good grades."

Friedlund is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection with a 3.2 grade-point average in in physiology.

"It's not an exceptional grade point but I'm doing pretty good with all of the time management involved," said the 1992 graduate of Concord High School. "Physics and math take up a lot of hours and our team manager, Dan Hornbaker, tutors me in physics. I also have Spanish and I just love it. It's the most fun class for me and our teacher is real enthusiastic, which makes learning fun."

The love for her Spanish class has enabled Friedlund to communicate better with teammate Veronica Morales.

"Veronica and I talk out on the court in Spanish all the time," Friedlund said. "Like when she has an aching head, I know what she's saying. And I know what they're saying when her cheering section is cheering."

That communication with other people is vital in Friedlund's life here at Michigan State, especially considering how much time she spends with her team and the other athletes who live in her house.

"We spend a lot of time together doing what we normally would be doing with our families, like carving pumpkins and going to apple orchards," Friedlund said. "I'm also close with Lindsey (Clayton) because of the position she's in. Her role is similar to mine. When I see her down, I pick her up and she does the same. It's easier when someone else is going through the same situation."

In addition to dealing with people, Friedlund acknowledges the steps it takes to mature as a student-athlete. She even adores how the community is so involved, knowing there is somebody continually supporting her team.

"The transition of physically, mentally and emotionally maturing develops over time," she said. "You learn how to deal with difficult situations and how people have to deal with them. Over the years, you learn how to earn respect from people and manage time. It's a matter of staying mentally tough despite all odds. Being a member of this team and going through that transition is something you can't teach somebody.

"I saw when I first came in how everybody made fun of us, even our own athletes and those from other teams. Now we just turn our heads because we're putting on a show. It feels good, too, to give the community as much as we do."

The Spartan volleyball team definitely has heads turning as they're off to a perfect 10-0 start in the Big Ten Conference entering the second half of the season. And it's team members like Friedlund who are keeping things in perspective.