By Tori Sisson
AUBURN, Ala. - During her time as an Auburn Tiger from 2008-11, Katy (Frierson) Freels excelled in both athletics and academics. Not only was Freels a two-time All-American, she also received the Leah Rawls Atkins Award and was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year her senior year.
Raised in Homewood, Ala., in a family of Alabama fans, Freels did not grow up dreaming of going to Auburn. However, her relationship with Auburn soccer coach Karen Hoppa from the Olympic Development Program persuaded Freels to take a campus visit.
"I came down and visited the school and the campus and loved the environment. I loved the small town feel, and the team was great," said Freels, who ended up committing to Auburn her sophomore year of high school. "I was just so, so excited to get down there, and it was the perfect fit."
Freels was a vital part of the soccer program during each of her four years at Auburn. Her name is all over the record books, including most career assists, game-winning goals, and points scored, but Freels says some of her fondest memories occurred off the field.
"I think being part of a team is really, really special," she said. "I don't think you get those feelings, even just eating dinner with each other and hanging out on the couch, those kind of moments you don't really get a lot elsewhere."
One athletic memory stands above the rest - when Auburn won the SEC Championship her senior year.
"We had worked so hard and we tried to win championships all four years, but that senior year we did some things differently, pushed ourselves and pushed each other to get to that next level," she said. "Winning a championship and celebrating with my teammates was such a great way to cap off my career there. My time at Auburn was some of the fondest memories I have."
On her academic successes, Freels cites her interest in her field of study, political science with a specialization in international development, as one of the biggest contributing factors.
"I was just really passionate about what I was studying and it made school enjoyable," she said. "It was a lot of fun to be in the major I was in."
Freels also credits the supportive culture Auburn fosters.
"It was a huge honor to win those accolades. I think it's a testament to the entire Auburn Athletic Department as a whole. They make it very easy for you to succeed in the classroom," she said. "To have as much support as we had from the counselors, professors, teammates and coaches, it made it pretty easy for me."
After graduation in 2011, Freels played professionally for the Western New York Flash and then Sky Blue FC.
"I got drafted out of Auburn and I went and played five years," said Freels. "I played up in New York for a season and then I played in New Jersey."
Freels sat out the 2016 season due to her pregnancy with her first child, Kinsey. She believes her experience as a student-athlete at Auburn prepared her for her new role as a mother just as much as it did for playing professionally.
"I'm a new mom and I think all the responsibilities I juggled at Auburn - school and studying and all those kind of things. They really have helped me manage my time better as a mom and kind of prioritize what's most important, and it's those relationships," she said.
"I think being a mom is the hardest thing I've done. It doesn't even compare to the morning fitness we did at 6 a.m.," Freels said. "But I do think I learned the value of relationships through my time at Auburn, committing to those relationships and what I want to do with my family and friends now that I've graduated."
Freels lives with her husband and daughter in Oklahoma, where Katy plays on a semi-pro team. "We're in Oklahoma for my husband's job so it kind of worked out that I have a team here," she said. "I can go out and play the game I love still and be on a team and feel that kind of camaraderie again."