Headed to Atlanta

By Eric Newman

Friends, family and Anthem Prep Academy classmates gathered around senior Olivia Friedman as she signed a ceremonial commitment letter recently to play soccer next academic year at Emory University in Atlanta.
The event began with highlights of a past game before coaches, Anthem Prep staff and others sung her praises as a player and a person. They also presented her with a glass frame displaying her No. 22 jersey to enjoy for years to come.
For Friedman, who started playing soccer at age 4, the ceremony was just one step in a long journey toward her dream of playing the sport at the next level.
“I’ve known this was something I wanted to do for a long time,” she says.
The Georgia school offered her a spot to play on a competitive NCAA Division 3 roster, but also to pursue excellent academics. Friedman intends to study forensic science.
“Emory is a school where I can play soccer, but it’s also a great school where soccer is just one part of what I’m doing there,” Friedman says.
Friedman gave off a friendly “aw shucks” attitude, uncomfortable as any teenager might be in front of hundreds of eyes in the school’s cafeteria on signing day. Anthem Prep Athletic Director Rick Watmore, though, warns that those who do not know Friedman like he does should beware of first impressions.
“She’s small, but she’s as tough as anyone on the field,” he says.
The Eagles did not have enough players to field a girls’ soccer team this AIA season, but he vividly remembers her aggressiveness and physical play in a state championship run two years ago and a runner-up finish in 2019.
Exceptional graduates like Friedman serve as an example of how even those from some of the smallest schools in the area can succeed on the field and at the collegiate level.
Watmore says he roots for athletes like Friedman to succeed, not only as people but as a testament to the benefits of working hard, regardless of where one does it.
“I use somebody like her to show potential parents trying to decide whether or not they should bring their kids here that they can still play college sports, that they can still be seen,” he says.
Now with several months off due to the unprecedented soccer break, and hopefully a successful college athletic and academic career ahead, Friedman can focus on finishing her senior year strong. Even more, she is ready to take the pitch for the Emory Eagles.
“I’m excited,” Friedman says. “I want to get back out there.”

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