by Frank Aceto

Associate Sports Editor

Make no mistake about it, Freda Foland Carlsen was absolutely thrilled.

The 1961 Cuyahoga Falls graduate and her teammates had an experience they will never forget and they will cherish the memories for the rest of their lives. But pardon Carlsen if she can't stop thinking about what might have been.

"If our libero didn't get hurt, we might have won the gold," she said. "But I am extremely happy and proud."

Carlsen, 70, was referring to the 2013 National Senior Games, which concluded July 31 in Cleveland.

Carlsen was the captain of Team Lightning, a volleyball team that earned the silver medal in the 70-to-74 age group.

Carlsen, a hitter, lives with her husband Ray, 75, in Poplar Grove, Ill. They spend their winters in Tucson, Ariz. She is a Kent State University graduate and has spent a number of years as a physical education teacher.

Carlsen eventually started a girls sports program in Tunkhannock, Pa., that featured sports such as basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and bowling. Carlsen and her husband eventually bought some weekly newspapers in Northwest Ohio.

Despite her hectic schedule, Carlsen always had time for volleyball.

And when the National Senior Games came to a place close to where she grew up, she was extremely intrigued.

She first participated in the Games in 2007 and has been a regular ever since. This is the best her team has ever done in the competition.

Carlsen and her teammates' road to the silver medal certainly wasn't easy.

Team Lightning played a total of 29 games. The first team to 25 wins a set, which is a best-of-three format.

The team lost one match in pool play and earned the third seed in the four-team Gold Division. Carlsen and her teammates rallied from the losers' bracket to reach the championship match against the top-seeded team, which Team Lightning defeated earlier in pool play.

Unfortunately, Team Lightning libero Marty Landorf fell on her hand and despite a valiant effort from the rest of her teammates, their hopes for gold were dashed.

"Marty had a bad knee and I think it gave out on her," Carlsen said. "We played a lot of games."

Nevertheless, the competition was an experience of a lifetime for Carlsen, Landorf and teammates Sylvia Nolan, Nancy Thomson, Sharan Wagner and Ellen Sypura. All of Carlsen's teammates live in the Northwest Chicago suburbs.

The team was coached by Ray, who played for the Chicagoland Masters team that finished fourth in the 75-to-79 age group.

"My husband deserves a lot of credit," Carlsen said. "I would have passed out if it weren't for him. I also want to give credit to my high school classmates who came to watch me play."

It would be easy to think Carlsen was probably an All-Ohio player during her high school days.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

"We didn't have girls sports at Cuyahoga Falls," Carlsen said. "We had some intramurals at Bolich [Middle School], but nothing in high school.

"I didn't play until I was 39. Ray didn't start playing until he was in the army."

Since high school, Carlsen hadn't seen much of Cleveland over the years.

Let's just say she liked what she saw.

"It's such a beautiful place," Carlsen said. "The facility was gorgeous and the people were so nice."

Carlsen and her husband hope to play in the Huntsman Senior World Games, which is scheduled to take place some time in October in St. George, Utah.

Don't expect her to be a deer in the headlights.

Carlsen was a part of the last two gold-medal winning teams at the World Games.

"We beat a team from Japan in 2011," she said.

Ray's team also has made its presence known at the World Games last year. The team captured a bronze medal in the men's 73-and-older age group.

Not all senior citizens are as spry at the Carlsens. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be active.

"Our team saying is, 'You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing,'" Carlsen said.


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