It’s not uncommon to at some point in our lives be told that we can’t do something.
Despite the fact that overcoming “the impossible” is ingrained in human nature, there are still countless people who will try to discourage you from even attempting certain feats.
Every day, however, there are hundreds of people ready to prove the doubters wrong.
Lauren Friis of the Westmont women’s volleyball team is one of those people.
Standing at just 5-0 tall, Friis was told since she was a young girl that she would never play volleyball, the sport she loved, at the collegiate level.
“Coaches, some players even just told me you’re too small, you’re never going to play, even when I was 13,” Friis said.
Some coaches try to temper players’ hopes because they are trying to protect them. After all, only seven percent of all high school athletes even continue playing at a varsity college level.
And specifically for women’s volleyball, the average height of a player is 5-6 and varies depending on the position. For liberos in NAIA schools, the average height is 5-5.
So it is safe to say that Friis’s journey to becoming a starter at a collegiate level would be a tough one. She understood that.
However, she also knew that some of her coaches, especially at the club level, were not telling her she would never play to protect her, but rather they actually did not believe in her.
“They were verbally abusive, 100 percent. Basically saying like I should stop playing now, I would never be great. I mean, they would do anything they could to try to get me to quit that team when I was 13,” Friis said.
Even with that, Friis knew she didn’t want to quit. She had played a lot of sports as a kid, but when she arrived to volleyball she knew it was the one for her.
Friis started out as a setter, but after coaches realized she wouldn’t grow up to be that tall, she was moved to libero. Lucky for her, she fell in love with the position.
“From diving on the floor to being that super energetic voice that comes with the position and being a leader in the back row, I just really enjoyed that,” Friis said.
And, even though she was told by her club coaches “you’re never even going to play out in high school,” Friis never doubted herself.
In fact, she played on the varsity squad all four years at Auburn Mountainview High School.
By her senior year, she was the teams lead libero tallying a team-high 112 digs. After solid play on the court, Friis continued everything she could off of it to find her future home.
“I sent out emails to any college I could think of. I would take the time to fill out the recruiting questionnaires, I did it all,” Friis said.
At one point, two of her senior teammates had signed with colleges leaving Friis to wonder about her own future. Even then, she never doubted she was destined to continue playing volleyball.
“No (I didn’t doubt myself), because I knew I loved to work hard and growing up my family told me that you can do anything you set your mind to,” Friis said.
“I knew that I was going to play in college.”
Her patience paid off.
Attending a Menlo camp, Friis met Ruth McGolpin, the now Westmont head coach. At that time, Friis had never even heard of Westmont. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with it.
“Once I came to Westmont and did my recruit trip with them, it just felt like another home,” Friis said.
Now, Friis continues proving her doubters wrong. Now a junior at Westmont, Friis is a regular out on the court playing in all 32 games so far this season and in all 120 sets. She leads the Warriors in digs (581), digs per set (4.84) and her .947 receiving percentage ranks fifth on the team. Not bad for a 5-0 libero.
In fact, Friis is one of the big reasons for the success of this Westmont team as it will travel to the NAIA Final Site to being pool play in Sioux City, IA on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd against Columbia (Mo.).
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. We’ve been working all year for this and just really taking it one game at a time and not getting too ahead of ourselves. Our season is not over for sure and we are so excited to go show that on the big stage,” Friis said.
Even though some people would try to discredit Friis’s accomplishment by saying Westmont is just an NAIA school, she does not care. She takes pride in her school.
“Some people do that, but honestly we could compete against some Div. 1 programs. We are a solid team and for people to underestimate us, that is fine,” Friis said.
To this day, Friis holds no resentment to those who told her she could not make it. In fact, she is thankful for the experience.
“I mean, from that I grew such thick skin, and I honestly believe that the situations that you go through are for a growing and learning process. Part of the player that I am today is because of those hard experiences that I had to go through,” Friis said.
“Remembering where I have come from is only by God’s grace and blessings.”
Funny enough, Friis never even resented her short stature. In fact, she embraces it.
“I always tell people I love being small. God had to give some height to some people and he made me fun size. I am a lot closer to the ground so it doesn’t hurt to dive,” Friis said.
Although some of her old coaches have reached out to her, Friis said she has never responded. And, in reality, there is no need to.
However, to those players also hoping to accomplish an impossible dream, Friis has just one word of advice.
“Never stop believing in yourself, because you are your biggest fan.”