By Rob LeDonne
As a young girl living in sunny Rancho Santa Fe, Jackie Friedman emulated her older sister. This was especially true when she’d attend her club matches and dreamt of being out on the field with her. Little did she know at the time, that was the start of an ongoing passion that’s guided her throughout her entire life.
“I used to go to all of my sister’s games and ended up starting to play when I was about 5 years old,” remembers Friedman from her home in Rancho Santa Fe during Christmas break. “I actually hated playing at first, but I stuck with it and realized I was good... so I kept on doing it.” Friedman not only kept on doing it, she became one of the area’s biggest soccer success stories after recently receiving a smattering of accolades while playing collegiate soccer for Dartmouth College. But like any classic success story, there was a lot of hard work along the way — and most of that took place in North County.
“I played soccer all the time, even with the boys at recess. It was just always really fun to me,” said Friedman, who first played on a recreation team simply because there were no clubs that accepted players under 8 years old. Friedman’s debut on an actual team was playing for the Rancho Santa Fe Attack, followed by a longer stint with the Surf soccer club, playing there until she was 18.
In addition to the soccer clubs, Friedman also played varsity for Torrey Pines High School and racked up numerous accolades, including being voted team MVP, and as a result steadily gained a reputation in the San Diego area as a rising star; all the more impressive since she kept her grades high the entire time. All the while, her parents were there providing support: “My mom and dad went to all my games, whether it was high school, club, or summer rec. When they didn’t come I’d be freaking out.”
Stellar grades or buzzed-about playing are two separate factors that woo colleges, but the two together made Friedman a score for any school searching for an exemplary addition to their campus.
“I never was someone who had a dream school, I just knew I wanted to use soccer to get the best education I could possibly get,” Friedman explains. “Ivy League schools popped up, and at first I was looking at Pepperdine and Columbia, among others. I went to so many campuses, but Dartmouth wound up to be the best fit for me.”
Arriving on Dartmouth’s campus in Hanover, New Hampshire, thousands of miles from the ocean waves in San Diego may be a culture shock for some students, but Friedman explains that soccer made the transition a bit easier: “Because I joined the team there, I had to be on campus two weeks before everyone else and was on a very strict schedule,” she remembers. After quickly acclimating to the school during the fall of her freshman year in 2011, she soon realized how different playing collegiate soccer is from smaller clubs and teams. “It’s just 100 percent all of the time,” explains Friedman of its intensity. “You need to be constantly game ready, even during practices. You never have your own spot, so you’re constantly fighting to maintain it. It’s just elevated competition.”
However, just as Friedman was a standout in San Diego she became a standout at Dartmouth. Since first playing she’s been a starter every game, and all of her hard-work paid off this past September when she was voted team MVP, something made all the more sweet since she’s become best friends with her teammates. “I just love all the girls on the team; I love being able to spend time with them.” At the same time, she made the Dean’s list— not an easy task at an Ivy League school where playing a sport that takes up much of her time.
Friedman is typically optimistic about her future, which includes a trip to Europe she’s taking with her team to play and be a tourist this coming summer. “We’re going to England and Scotland to play a few games. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Nowadays when she comes back to the area to visit, she can’t help but reminisce as she passes all the places that shaped her life. “It brings up so many memories and thoughts. For example, I’ve spent so many hours of my life playing on the Polo Fields, during surf clubs and national league, between practice and running. I was there constantly from when I was 11 to when I was 18. Now, when I see the really young soccer players out there it makes me sad I can never do that again.”
As for her proudest moment in a sea of them, Friedman can’t pinpoint one in particular: “I really don’t know. I was happy just getting into college, but I’m trying to take whatever happens in stride.”