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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Courtesy of Bill Alden, Town Topics

When Sasha Sherry joined the Princeton University women's hockey team this season, the freshman defenseman was focused on tending to her blue line duties.

Instead, the 6-0 native of Lehighton, Pa. has emerged as a major scoring threat for the Tigers, scoring 15 points in the team's first 16 games, good for second place on the team behind Marykate Oakley's 17 points.

For Sherry, her offensive production has been a bonus as she looks to fit in with the Tigers.

"I'm a bit surprised," said Sherry, who has two goals and 13 assists for the 7-7-2 Tigers.

"I consider myself a team player that does whatever the team needs me to do and whatever it takes for the team to win. It makes me feel great to score; I feel like I am really contributing to the team."

Even as Sherry has been piling up the points, the transition to college hockey has been challenging.

"You have to make decisions faster," said Sherry, who helped her high school program, Shattuck-St. Mary's (Minn.), win three national titles.

"In high school you can stand with the puck for a second. In college, you have to make decisions right away. The systems are really important, you really need to know positioning. You need to know where you need to be and where your teammates are going to be. If you are not in the right place at the right time, you can hurt the team."

Sherry will be in a special place this week as she heads up to Lake Placid, N.Y. for the USA Hockey Women's holiday camp, looking to make the U.S. Under-18 squad for the World Women's Under-18 Championship in Calgary, Alberta from January 7-12.

Building on the progress she has made so far in her debut campaign with the Tigers, Sherry is confident she will turn heads at the camp.

"I feel like since I am the only girl with college experience so that puts me ahead," said Sherry, whose teammates Katherine Dineen and Lizzie Keady will be in camp trying to make the U.S. U-22 team.

"I feel like I am a good passer; I can make the pass from the defensive zone to get the team going up the ice. I have a good shot from the point."

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal is impressed with how quickly Sherry has gotten the point as she has moved up to the college level.

"For 16 games, she has been really solid," said Kampersal. "She has a lot of reach, good height, and good hands. She gets in trouble when she makes one move and then tries to make two or three more. When she simplifies her game, she can be dominant. She is still young and learning. She is an awesome kid; she is very coachable."

Sherry is used to succeeding quickly when it comes to sports. She starred as a competitive swimmer from ages 6 to 8 before she took up hockey.

Once in hockey, she quickly moved up the ranks, going from her local rink's in-house team to playing on boys' travel teams out of Philadelphia.

Realizing that she needed a better level of competition by the time she was in high school, Sherry headed out to Faribault, Minnesota to play for the high-powered program at Shattuck St. Mary's. Sherry scored 70 points as a senior and 56 the previous season in helping the program dominate on the national scene.

In Sherry's view, her experience at Shattuck St. Mary's was pivotal in her development as a person and hockey player.

"It definitely helped me mature," said Sherry. "I was living on my own. I was independent and I couldn't rely on my mother to help me. Hockey-wise, we played a lot of games and I got so much game experience."

With Princeton having produced a sweep of Union and Rensselaer in its last weekend of play in December, Sherry is confident the team can win a lot of games when it returns to action in 2008.

"I think there have been some games that could have gone either way," said Sherry, who figures to still be in Lake Placid when Princeton plays at Connecticut on January 4 and 5.

"If we had won those games, we could have had more momentum. I think the last weekend was great; we really came together as a team. We played with confidence. We had scoring from different people and we are going to need that."

And Princeton is going to need Sherry to keep scoring if it is to build some momentum in the second half of the season.

Bill Alden's article is from the January 2nd, 2008 version of Town Topics.

- A.S.