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p1440: Heather Friesen, Kristen Petrasic

p1440 Developmental Program: Heather Friesen, Kristen Petrasic

They solemnly swore that they didn’t pursue this career for the simple notion of getting away, though can you really blame the families of Kristen Petrasic and Heather Friensen if that’s what they thought?

For here is Petrasic, a Dallas native who “told everybody I was going to do it,” she recalled of her mindset prior to moving to California. “So I told my dad, I was like, ‘I’m going to be gone for a month to five years.’”

It’s now been four and a half years, and “I haven’t had a bad day since I’ve been here,” she said, smiling.

Her partner’s journey is equally as nomadic, if not a touch more. Friesen was raised in Munster, Indiana, not exactly a beach volleyball hotbed. Her initial step outside of Munster was to Western Kentucky, where she helped the Hilltoppers to three NCAA Tournament appearances and graduated ranked No. 3 in hitting percentage and fourth in total blocks.

But the distance from Munster, Indiana, to Bowling Green, Kentucky really isn’t too far, just a four-or-so-hour drive – a little south, a little east, easy to come, easy to go.

Her next move was a bit more substantive: Friesen was transferring to Hawai’i to play a season on the beach. It seemed an ideal situation – out of her comfort zone, in one of the most coveted locations in the world, playing on the beach. And it was. Until, quick as a hiccup, it wasn’t.

A week before the season, Friesen – then Heather Boyan – went on one of Hawai’i’s innumerable hiking trails, documenting as she went. She was peering over the edge of a waterfall when the slide began – subtle at first, then all at once. Friesen’s feet went out from under her and down she went – 40 or 50 feet, she estimates, colliding with a rock at the bottom.

Ten of her ribs were broken. A lung collapsed. Her scapula was fractured. She was airlifted to a hospital, where the doctors told her it would be six months to a year before she could play volleyball again, “if I could play again,” Friesen recalled. “I was like ‘No, I’m going to play again. It’s going to happen.’

“Through all of that, it kind of reset my priorities and made me realize that I was putting volleyball above everything in my life but I’m a Christian and I realized that God needs to come first and so I started playing for Him instead of just to glorify myself. So it really helped me to see a more important side of life and I think God just picked me up off the ground.”

And she, in turn, is lifting her faith in Southern California, starting a Bible study for professional beach volleyball players on Tuesday nights while continuing to improve as a player alongside Petrasic, with whom she played the entire 2018 season.

“When I think about it, I’ve had a pretty good life,” Friesen said. “We’re blessed to be out here, doing what we love to do.”

As Petrasic said: They haven’t had a bad day since they’ve been out here.