FARGO — Lander Friederichs will be moving from one unprecedented season to another next fall.
The Fargo Shanley senior is navigating pandemic hurdles during her final volleyball season for the Deacons. She’ll find herself in another unique situation next year when she heads to St. Paul to join a team that’s transitioning from NCAA Division III to Division I.
Friederichs, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter, announced her commitment to play volleyball at the University of St. Thomas via Twitter on Monday, Sept. 21. The Tommies are slated to join the Summit League in July 2021.
“It’s an overall super exciting feeling,” Friederichs said. “Just to have the decision made this early on in my senior year and to be able to relax. Whether it’s the coaching, the atmosphere, the education, I know everything about it is a good decision.”
The Tommies will spend their last year in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Division III league, in 2020-21. St. Thomas will be playing at the Division I level for the first time the following season (2021-22), Friederichs’ first year on the team.
“I'm super excited to be able to be a part of that first transition year,” Friederichs said. “I think it’ll be really interesting. How cool to be like, ‘I was there the first year it happened.’ But I think overall, it’s just super exciting for the school.”
Friederichs, a four-year varsity player and two-year captain for the Deacons, helped Shanley to a fourth-place Class A state volleyball finish last season. She's tallied 69 kills and 20 blocks through eight matches this season.
The 6-foot-1 senior had interest from a few other schools at the DII and DIII levels, but she had her heart set on becoming a Tommie long before it was announced St. Thomas would make the two-level jump. Friederichs’ brother, Cole, is on the men’s track and field team at St. Thomas.
“It was definitely an added bonus,” she said of the Division I announcement. “Obviously that helped my decision probably, I would say. But I wouldn’t be shocked that even if they were still DIII, I definitely could see myself still ending up there.”
Her recent commitment has offered some stability during the time of uncertainty with the ongoing pandemic.
“With all of this going on, it’s really put a lot into perspective — trying your hardest because you never know what’s going to be given to you and what’s going to be taken away,” Friederichs said on her senior season. “It just really puts it into perspective how much this last little run with my team matters because it could end tomorrow. Like who knows when my last time stepping on the court in high school could be?”
Friederichs committed a little over a week before she announced it on social media. She shared the news with her family, friends and team in the first few days.
Friederichs told her coach, Mark Quenette, about her commitment over the phone, ahead of a team Zoom call scheduled for that evening. She hadn’t seen him, or her teammates, in person for some time because the team was quarantined after a member tested positive for COVID-19, Friederichs said. Quenette, who is in his first year at the helm, then relayed the news to her teammates on the Zoom call.
Friederichs and her team were in a 10-day quarantine following the positive COVID-19 test result. Their last day of quarantine was 14 days from the date of the last close contact with the individual. Shanley’s (2-1 EDC, 5-3) first game back since quarantine is slated for Friday, Sept. 25, against West Fargo High School.
Whether she’d have a fall season wasn’t going to impact her recruiting future at St. Thomas. Friederichs spoke with Tommies head women’s volleyball coach Thanh Pham, whom she’s gotten to know very well, at a volleyball camp this summer when there were still a lot of unknowns about fall sports.
“(Pham) told me, ‘We want you, you’ve proved to us. We’ve seen you enough.’ I think being told that definitely helped my decision,” she said.
Friederichs, who will most likely be at middle or right side when she gets to St. Thomas, has been in contact with Pham for a couple years now. She first emailed him during her sophomore season, and met him in person at a volleyball camp in town that summer.
“That first day of camp, I knew,” Friederichs said. “The philosophy, the atmosphere he brings into a gym is where I see myself.”