She's carrying a torch

Theresa Sherry: Bryn Mawr's lacrosse, soccer and basketball standout learned a lot about life and competition from her father, Paul. Even after his death from cancer, those lessons haven't been forgotten.

May 09, 2000|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Immediately after the U.S. team won the Under-19 women's lacrosse world championship in Australia last September, Theresa Sherry had quite a grin on her face.

"Finally, I've one-upped my dad," she told coach Wendy Kridel. "He's done a lot, but he hasn't won a world championship."

A few weeks later, the Bryn Mawr senior's picture appeared in Sports Illustrated'`s Faces in the Crowd, highlighting her selection as Player of the Match in the 15-8 title-game victory over Australia.

Paul Sherry had been mentioned in Sports Illustrated, too, as a 1975 national Golden Glove boxing champ, but there had been no picture of him.

Theresa couldn't resist teasing her dad about that either.

But Paul Sherry didn't mind. No one wanted Theresa to outdo him more than he did.

"He was really happy for me," said Theresa, an All-Metro soccer, basketball and lacrosse player. "He taught me a lot. He was the one who always believed I could do all of those things."

Her father shared in her success in Australia, even though he had to remain half a world away.

While Theresa was winning her world championship, Paul Sherry was slowly losing his battle with colon cancer.

After a promising summer, his health began to decline while Theresa and her mother, Jan Sherry, were in Australia. In October, he moved to the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He died there Nov. 13, a year after he was diagnosed.

Theresa grieved, of course, but not until after he died.

"The way my family dealt with it, I never really lost any hope," said Theresa, the oldest of four children. "I was never looking ahead. I was just going day by day, trying to help him out as much as I could."

Through her emotional turmoil, Theresa steadied herself with help from her family and friends. Six months later, her tight family ties and deep Christian faith keep her father's spirit close.

"It's amazing," said Kridel, who also coaches Theresa at Bryn Mawr. "She's really able to take a positive spin on it. She wants nothing more than to have him back here, but she's able to find him in her mind and in her heart."

Theresa has not allowed her grief to distract her from her goals. Her father wouldn't want that. She has managed to keep a grade-point average between 3.2 and 3.5 while excelling in three sports.

One of the last things Theresa shared with her father was her decision to go to Princeton, where she will play soccer and lacrosse.

Highly recruited as a lacrosse player because of her versatility as an exceptional defender who also can score, Theresa narrowed her choices to Princeton and Maryland, currently the top two Division I teams in the nation.

She was notified on Nov. 10 that she had been accepted to Princeton. Paul Sherry died three days later, at 47.

"I believe firmly he fought and fought until he found out where she was going to go to school," said Jim "Snuffy" Smith, Bryn Mawr basketball coach and a friend of Paul Sherry. "Maybe I'm wrong, but it's too coincidental that that week everything was finalized."

Paul Sherry, who never won a world boxing championship because Sugar Ray Leonard was always in his way, began laying the foundation for Theresa's love of sports very early.

"When I was 2, he was playing baseball with me," said Theresa, who soon gave that up for softball, soccer and basketball teams often coached by her dad.

After years of playing club soccer, she emerged as All-Metro striker at Bryn Mawr, scoring 20 goals and five assists last fall.

Lacrosse was a different story. Theresa had played a little in elementary school, but didn't like it. She didn't pick up a stick again until she played junior varsity her freshman year at Bryn Mawr.

Kridel arrived the next year and helped Theresa evolve into a first-team All-Metro defender. She made the U.S. Under-19 team a little over a year after she put her heart into the game.

"When I first saw Theresa play, I saw the athlete she was," said Kridel. "If she had decided not to play [in her sophomore year], I would have convinced her. I could see it right away."

Smith saw it too, four years ago as he observed Theresa helping her dad with the 13-and-under AAU basketball team he coached.

"I was struck by her incredible work ethic," said Smith. "She was 15 helping out with a 13-and-under AAU team. She could have just gone through the motions, but that's not the way she is."

As her No. 2 Mawrtians lacrosse team begins its quest today for an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship, her work ethic, willingness to put the team first and genuine humility remain evident.

Theresa will be the first to say that she learned all of that from her father.

"She knows Paul was always behind her," said Jan Sherry. "He was always encouraging all four of them. Whenever they came home from practices, he would sit and talk with them and encourage them. He spent a lot of time with them and let them know if they worked at things, they would get something out of it. I think she still feels that."

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