Nov. 18, 2010
TALLAHASEE, Fla. - If there was any of the current Seminole volleyball players who needed sports the most to guide their path in life, a strong case could be made for sophomore Sareea Freeman.
Growing up out West in Fresno, Calif., Freeman was surrounded by difficult circumstances in one of the rougher areas of the Golden State. In order for her to accomplish her dreams and stay the course without any obvious distractions, she knew that she needed to utilize her early growth spurt and use the sport of volleyball as a diversion from her home life.
"My past wasn't the best, but I learned from my experiences," Freeman said "Sometimes I look back and I can't believe what I have overcome or how I got through that. Yes, I grew up in a rough area, where there was a lot of crime. A lot of people who knew me thought that I might go down that road several times, but I never did. I always wanted to be something and my gift, which was my height, allowed me to be that something."
Her height and athleticism certainly were gifts - or even Godsends. Her involvement and ability to excel on the court kept her away from the ghastly lifestyle that permeated portions of central California. Not only was she lighting up the gym by blocking balls at the net, Freeman also was a standout basketball player at her stomping grounds in Sunnyside High School.
In fact, the talented middle blocker is so passionate about the sport that she has pondered returning to it once she exhausts her volleyball eligibility.
"My experience as a basketball player wasn't the best, but I made the most out of it," Freeman noted. "I was a leader and an inspiration to a lot of the younger kids. I still want and hope to play basketball at FSU in my fifth year - that is a goal of mine and I hope that I will achieve it. I enjoyed playing it in high school and it was literally my other half and I miss it so much. It was hard choosing between the two."
Besides providing an escape from her everyday surroundings, the realm of athletics gave Freeman a social avenue that is noticeable today. She is a fun-loving, hard-working person who uses all her energy to make people smile while pleasing her coaches and teammates. However, people didn't get an initial glimpse of Sociable Sareea when she first arrived as a freshman in 2008. She was conscious on making an impression to her teammates despite not knowing them at first, and combined with her ability to instill faith in them on the volleyball court, Freeman was able to create an extraverted presence right away.
"When I came out here nobody knew me so I stopped being the shy girl that I used to be and started talking to people and I fit in really well with my class athletes," Freeman said. "A lot of them are still my close friends and I admire and cherish those relationships. I also feel like I have grown on the court - I want my teammates to have faith in me to put the ball down. I want to be a go-to person on the court."
With outstanding right-side hitter Rachael Morgan out indefinitely with a stress fracture in her foot, Poole tapped Freeman to learn the position on the fly. In last weekend's big road win at Georgia Tech, Poole marveled at Freeman's ability to adjust her game and adapt to the right side, which means getting more sets and becoming more of a hitter than her original role as middle blocker.
In terms of solid performances by Freeman, upcoming opponent North Carolina rings a clear bell. As a middle blocker, Freeman amassed 12 blocks in a five-set loss to the Tar Heels on Sept. 30.
"Statistically, I would say that was the best game of my career. I was playing a friend, setter Cora Harms, so I was definitely pumped to play," Freeman added.
Freeman, who hopes to travel the world someday and possibly play as a professional, was hit hard by much of the adversity the Seminoles have faced this season. From injuries to family-related issues, Freeman has been empathetic to her teammates based on the issues she faced growing up, but believes the inner strength of the current squad is as strong as ever.
"The adversity I feel will just make us stronger, and I have faced adversity a lot in my life," Freeman said. "When the adversity is there all you care about is your surroundings, knowing that someone is there for you. I feel like the team did that very well with Steph (Neville) and Vish (Djurdjevic). Although some tough things have happened, we are still a team that has a lot to prove."
Not fearful of anything that stands in her path, Freeman is a poster child for any athlete who looks to stay on a one-way street to success. Overcoming every hardship that has tried to knock her down, the Family and Child Services major continues to flash her trademark smile and enjoy each and every day playing with her teammates and working her way up in life.
Nearly halfway through her collegiate career, Freeman will continue to be a force on the court. However, no matter what kind of accolades she might attain in the future, none of her achievements will match the lessons she taught herself as a strong-hearted kid in California.