Deacon ‘Sportlight’: Friedman and Gordon


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Nat Friedman (pictured above) and Lee Ann Gordon hope to make meaningful contributions to the national field hockey team.

Christina Denovio, Sports Editor

 Junior midfielder Nat Friedman and sophomore defender Lee Ann Gordon have both been selected to 2022 USA Field Hockey National Teams. They received this honor after a four-day selection camp at Queens University of Charlotte. Friedman was one of eight selections to the 2022 USA Field Hockey Development team, while Gordon was named to the 2022 U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team. 

Both Demon Deacons have impressive resumes in both their high school and college careers. Last summer, the pair also played for Team USA. Friedman was named a member of the USA Field Hockey Women’s Junior Pan American Championship (JPAC) Training Squad and the U-22 Women’s National Team, which competed against Chile. Gordon was added to the USA Field Hockey U-21 Development Selection Camp Roster. Friedman and Gordon look forward to representing both their university and their country, marking a strong start to the 2022 calendar year. 

Christina DeNovio: How did you get into field hockey? Did you play other sports growing up? 

Nat Friedman: Actually, my mom played field hockey at William & Mary. I started playing at a pretty young age, maybe first grade. I also played other sports. I played soccer, lacrosse and track and field, but field hockey was always the main sport that I focused on because I felt the most dominant in that area, I’ve stuck with it ever since. 

Lee Ann Gordon: Field hockey was actually the last sport I started playing. My grade school got a team when I was in fifth grade, so I started playing then. Before that, I played volleyball, basketball, softball and a little bit of soccer. I tried everything. I always knew that I loved sports growing up. When I started playing field hockey, I loved it. 

CD: You both had very successful high school careers. What made you decide to come to Wake Forest? 

NF: I started looking at Wake Forest in early high school. I came to do a camp here and fell in love with the campus, fell in love with the coaching. Obviously, academics are unbeatable here. And I think I knew as soon as I toured that this was where I was gonna go. And all the other schools that I visited just didn’t compare to here. I knew it was the perfect fit. 

LAG: It was a similar experience for me. I’m from Louisville, and a lot of the top players go to that school. So, I really thought that I wanted to go there to be honest. But, I kept my options open and looked at a lot of different schools. I visited Wake Forest, and I i m m e d i a t e l y loved it from my first visit. I got in the car with my mom, and I told her “this is where I want to go,” and that was that. 

CD: Can you explain what led you to the national team? 

NF: The program for younger players to get to the national team is called “Futures.” It’s kind of like an Olympic pipeline — they take and you get selected at various levels up to the top. 

During my experience, I would make it a decent way through, but I would always end up getting to the last camp and getting cut for the national team. This is the first time I’ve actually ever been named to a national team, so that was pretty big for me. 

I’m really excited about it. And so I guess it just shows that being in college and getting experience and great coaching really has developed my game to the point where I’m able to make a national team now. 

LAG: I was a part of the junior national teams when I was in high school. I had the really cool experience of traveling to Germany with the U-18 national team, which was really awesome. Field hockey in Louisville was just getting off the ground as I was growing up. 

Our age group kind of paved the way for field hockey in that area. It was really awesome to have that experience and get to play at that level. I was on the teams throughout high school, and then was re-selected once I got here. As Nat said, the coaching staff and having the top playing experience around us have enabled us to stay at that level and continue to be selected. 

CD: What kind of feelings did you experience during that process and when you found out that you had been chosen to represent your country at the highest level? 

NF: The camp was definitely difficult. It was a long four days, and the competition there was just really intense too. I felt really well-prepared going into the camp. As Lee Ann said, the coaching staff does a really good job of making sure that we keep our level up. It was really fulfilling to find out that we got selected. As I said before, that was my first time actually being named to a legit team. I was named to the Junior World Cup team earlier this year and you’re supposed to go back in December, but that ended up getting postponed because of COVID-19. So I’m still looking for that selection coming out — they’re reevaluating teams for April. I’m hoping to make that one. 

LAG: As Nat said, the coaching staff really prepared us to perform at this camp. Our strength and conditioning coaches have been working with us on fitness, and that’s a big part in the USA performance — they really want their athletes to be fit. And that has been a big factor in our performance as well at the camp. I felt like Nat and I both performed well, and it was really awesome to have the experience of getting selected. I’m looking forward to what’s to come with the training. 

CD: What are you most looking forward to as a member of the national team? 

NF: I think I’m just looking forward to being able to grow my game even more. There’s a different kind of intensity of play going from high school to college and then from college to the international level because everything is just that much quicker. I think being able to get this experience at the international level will just be beneficial, even in college, because we’ll be able to use new skills and bring them back to the team and just grow our overall game. 

LAG: I think there are a lot of different concepts that you learn about from playing different countries. We’ll do drills that mimic other international playing styles. I think you learn a lot by playing with other people. I think that these drills will really help us grow our game and bring success back to Wake Forest. I also really look forward to the relationships that we build at the camps and getting to know players from other colleges as well as different coaches. The field hockey community is pretty small, and it’s really cool to be able to have that support system around you. 

CD: What are you most looking forward to for the Wake Forest Spring 2022 season? 

NF: We have a pretty young team. We’re losing a lot of our older players, so I think it’s been really interesting seeing a lot of people step up into new positions at practice and really kind of getting into their own, especially the freshman class. Everyone is kind of coming out into their own style. I’m really excited to see how we do in these scrimmages and get some people in new positions that haven’t been in before the game. 

LAG: I agree with Nat. We’re losing several seniors, and we have some injuries on the team right now as well. I think it’s just really cool to see different people stepping up. Everyone’s working really hard right now. We just had a good week of practice and I’m just looking forward to the progress that we’re going to make throughout the spring. 

CD: What are your favorite parts of being on the team at Wake Forest? 

NF: All the girls are basically my best friends. I think it’s just really fun every day to come out and to be able to play with your best group of girl friends. I think that just gives me motivation to come out every day, even though it may be hard sometimes. I love having all my friends around me all the time. 

LAG: We kind of joke about how we all come from different parts of the world. It’s so crazy how none of us would know each other if it weren’t for our sport. And now we’re here and we’re all so close. Although we had no idea who each other was right before we came, we’re all best friends now. So I think that that would be one of my favorite parts of playing field hockey as well. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.