MANHEIM – The shot Kat Sharkey once developed in her Moosic backyard after a scoreless junior high hockey season at Wyoming Seminary was on display this week at the Pan American Cup field hockey tournament at Spooky Nook Sports.
Sharkey finished pool play as the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals in three games, including a hat trick Aug. 5 when the United States defeated Mexico, 6-0, in its opener.
The first two goals came on sizzling shots off penalty corners, which new U.S. coach Janneke Schopman designed specifically to emphasize Sharkey’s power, accuracy and ability to get off a drive quickly.
“I have more of a role on the penalty corners,” Sharkey said. “It’s a different role. I was more of a deflector/tipper in the past.
“Now, I’m delivering on those direct shots.”
Sharkey had used that shot to complete her transition from that young girl who didn’t score to one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the world in women’s field hockey. She has a prominent role, starting and playing forward for all but a few minutes a quarter on the U.S. team that rose two spots to fourth in the world rankings after winning the World League Semifinals earlier this season.
After Sharkey scored two more goals in a 9-0 rout of Brazil Wednesday to finish pool play 2-0-1, the United States advanced to Friday’s semifinals.
Chile upset the United States, 4-3, Friday. The United States will play Canada, the team it tied Monday, for third place in Sunday’s consolation game.
Two other Olympians from the Wyoming Valley Conference have retired in the past year, but Sharkey said she is not thinking about such a decision yet. Former Wyoming Seminary teammate Kelsey Kolojejchick has taken a position as assistant coach at Syracuse University while Dallas graduate Paige Selenski has turned to postgraduate medical studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
“I’m only 27 which, in hockey years, is not that old, to be honest,” said Sharkey, who made her Olympic debut when the United States was placing fifth at the Rio de Janeiro Games last year. “Internationally, girls play well into their 30s.
“After Rio, I felt like I still loved the sport and still had a lot to give to this game. I feel like I haven’t reached my potential as an individual.”
Sharkey has shown improvement throughout this year, which included her 100th career international appearance.
Her major role in the U.S. offense was evident in the tournament opener in which she needed just 3:13 to score. Sharkey drew the fouls that led to five of the team’s 16 penalty corners and turned two of those five into her own goals. She placed seven of eight shots on goal as the game’s dominant player.
Sharkey was an offensive force by the time she was winning a state championship at Wyoming Seminary. As a senior, she was second in the nation in scoring among high school players with 50 goals and 23 assists.
At Princeton, where she is the school’s all-time leading scorer, Sharkey took things a step further. Before and after a year off to concentrate on her first season of national team play, Sharkey led the nation in collegiate scoring. She finished with Princeton records for goals in a game (six), season (38) and career (107).