Elizabeth Friedlander ’07 — or, as an adviser once described her, the Energizer bunny on crack — balances a busy life and overcomes hurdles without skipping a beat.
She is the starting goalie for the Yale field hockey team, a section leader in Whim and Rhythm, and a senior architecture major, somehow managing to succeed in all three arenas despite extensive commitments. The challenge of juggling these different activities is apparent; it has been anything but a smooth path to her current situation. Without faltering or fanfare, she has glided through both the highs and the lows.
“I just don’t think about it,” Friedlander said. “I make a way for it to happen.”
Friedlander, or Efrie, as she is known to her friends, began her field hockey career under her mother’s direction. This is not unusual considering Mrs. Friedlander’s own teenage field hockey experience and the tight-knit relationships in the Friedlander family. Elizabeth grew up with the constant backing of her parents and her older brother, David ’05, and continues to receive unconditional support today.
“We both know that if we ever really need each other, the other one’s there,” her brother said. “It’s gotten to the point where it goes without saying.”
But her family has not controlled the outcomes in her life. It has been her personal will and consistency that has brought her success.
After being cut at tryouts for her first club team, Efrie continued to practice and eventually caught the eye of the team’s coach, who afterwards invited her to join the squad. During her sophomore year, Friedlander made the varsity team as a midfielder, where she played until she was hit in the head with a stick and required 38 stitches. From that point on, she only played goalie because her parents would not allow her to play without a helmet.
Speaking of protection, Efrie has also stuck to a strong pregame superstition. She always puts her right side on before her left side when she dresses herself. Though she laughs at herself, she said she has been doing it since she was six, when on the way to a big soccer game she read that some cultures don their right side first for good luck. After she won the game, it became a permanent part of her pregame routine.
During the off-season, the future Eli played for numerous high-level teams. In her freshman year of high school, she was accepted into Futures, the initial stepping stone for the US development program. In 11th and 12th grades, she was selected through that program to play on her regional team in the national championships.
Friedlander also competed in Festival, a large Thanksgiving tournament and huge field hockey recruiting ground. Here she caught the eye of the college coaches and committed to her first choice university during her senior year. Soon after, the school, which she must keep confidential under NCAA regulations, informed her that it no longer wished to recruit her.
Under the encouragement of her brother, Friedlander decided to reconsider applying to Yale. She said she recalls thinking, “Screw this whole recruiting thing. I’m just going to go where I want to go, and hopefully I can play field hockey on some level there.”
In the summer after her acceptance to Yale, Efrie was invited to join the US field hockey program’s “B” team, two steps below the national team. She emailed then-Yale head coach Ainslee Lamb about joining the Elis. After Lamb heard about Friedlander’s “B” camp experience, she allowed Efrie to walk on to the team without a tryout.
Friedlander started her Yale career as an academic, a musician, and an athlete. She planned to major in architecture and physics, became a member of The New Blue, and of course, intended to play field hockey. Academically, she handled a heavy load of coursework. As a member of an a cappella group, she found a community of close friends. And as an athlete, she did not see a second of playing time.
The following summer, in her last year of under-21 eligibility, she was reinvited to play at the US “B” camp, but tore all three hamstring muscles in her left leg while training at the field hockey camp where she was coaching. Unaware of the severity of her injury, the unwavering Friedlander coached the rest of that day from the sidelines with a bag of ice on her leg.
After an initial misdiagnosis as a minor pull, her injury was rediagnosed at Yale-New Haven hospital. She was told she would be on crutches until February and that she may never be able to run again.
“I was like ‘No. No. No. No. We play Princeton on September 9th. I have to be better by then,’” said Friedlander, thinking back on the experience.
So, true to form, Efrie did not let this setback deter her progress. She was off crutches by August, and played in her first practice on September 8, the day before the Princeton game.
Finally, a month later, she earned her first Yale playing time. The Bulldogs lost 8-1 to UConn, but she played a shut out game in her next start. Efrie then split the starts for the rest of the season with incumbent Kate Crandall ’06.
As she continued to recover and play during her sophomore year, Friedlander still managed the work of her double major and the time commitment of The New Blue. In fact, she even managed to excel in all of her endeavors.
“I’ve always been amazed at [her] commitment to a cappella,” said fellow The New Blue member Sarah Graham ’07. “She’s involved in so many activities at Yale, but she brings energy to all of them.”
Soon after her recovery, Friedlander was invited to play with the U.S. “A” camp. Though she was cut from the team, she was placed in the EPTC, an elite training program from which the national team is picked.
In her junior year, Friedlander started at the beginning of the season, but was replaced for the rest of the season by Crandall starting with the second half of the Dartmouth game on Oct. 5, 2005. She also was The New Blue social coordinator, tour manager and “food guru.” In addition, she commonly spent consecutive sunrises and sunsets in the Art and Architecture building working on her now solitary major. During the spring, Efrie rushed and was tapped for Whim and Rhythm, the all-female senior a cappella group.
Finally, as a senior, the goalie securely began starting every game. And while it has been a bumpy ride toward securing the starting nod between the posts, the underclassmen who run the field in front of her look up to the netminder very much.
“She knows the game incredibly well,” defender Jayna Whitcher ’09 said. “I respect her in what she does.”
When she had been injured in the summer of 2004, Friedlander’s mother bought her a #44 charm to wear when she “stopped moping around and started playing the way she could play.” The goalie finally donned it this fall.
This year, along with singing and securing the Yale net, Efrie teaches science labs in New Haven schools, works as an assistant for the athletic department, and works event staff at Yale sporting events.
Perhaps she is best described in her own words. Elizabeth Friedlander: “Fitting eight days into seven since 1984.”