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Spikeball Club President Carries Friend’s Legacy Through Sport

Penn State sophomore Isaac Freeman arrived in Happy Valley in the fall of 2018.

He’s less than halfway through his collegiate career, but Freeman has already created a unique niche in the fabric of Penn State that has allowed him to share his passion with classmates. Freeman formed a Spikeball club at Penn State last year, and he now serves as its president.

But when he’s away from Happy Valley, his involvement with the sport doesn’t stop. On July 18, he’ll host the third-annual Ethan Song Roundnet Tournament in his hometown of Guilford, Connecticut.

The tournament was created by Freeman and his friend, Evan Song, in early 2018. The idea was formed after Evan’s brother, Ethan, was fatally shot by an unsecured firearm in January of that year.

The tournament proceeds go toward the Ethan Miller Song Foundation, which was created by the Song family following the tragedy. It donates to organizations supporting animal rights, gun safety, and more.

“It was devastating for me, Evan and the rest of our friends,” Freeman said. “We took a lot of time to try and figure out how to honor [Ethan], and make the most out of a terrible situation. Ethan believed in a lot of things, and we wanted to honor that.”

After the initial week of fundraising, they had already received more than $100,000 in donations. The foundation also started a 5k race alongside the summer Spikeball tournament.

“He was a well-known kid, and the Songs are a loved family,” Freeman said. “Roughly 60% of those [who play in the tournament] are from Guilford and knew Ethan. I know it means a lot when we have teams not just from the area, because that is a great way for [the Songs] to feel loved and that’s really important to us.”

The past two tournaments have both had impressive turnouts; around 100 teams have played each year, generating a total of $10,000 of additional donations to the foundation.

While many within the Penn State Spikeball circle have yet to make it to Connecticut for Freeman’s tournament, several weren’t surprised to know that the club’s president is successfully making a difference within his home town.

“Isaac is one of the friendliest and open people I’ve ever met,” said sophomore Mike Rinaldi, who serves as the secretary of the Spikeball Club. “He’s extremely persistent and determined to do something once he decides it needs to be done. The tournament just shows a small part of his big heart and is one of the many reasons so many people admire him.”

The Ethan Song Roundnet Tournament is part of the East Roundnet series, a competition featuring 10 tournaments between May and November. While it’s not one of the four coveted tour stops, a designation given to the best tournaments in the East region, the Guilford tournament is still highly regarded as a chance to earn points toward the highly rated competition.

However, the result at the end of the day is less important than the cause, and Freeman encourages everyone who enjoys the game to participate.

“If anyone is in the New England area, please come through. It is so much fun and for a great cause,” Freeman said.

If you are not a Spikeball player and would still wish to support the Song family, you can donate here.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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