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Dec. 13, 2004

Spotlight on Sharnee Zoll

by Cathy Bongiovi Stewart

Guard Sharnee Zoll has been thrown right into the fire as a true freshman. The 5-7 product has received the starting nod at point guard for the Cavaliers.

Growing up in Marlboro, N.J., just outside of Philadelphia, Zoll had heard a lot about another girl from Philly named Dawn Staley. Learning to play basketball at age five, Zoll wanted to be just like Dawn- a point guard. And where else would the aspiring point guard like to pursue her collegiate education and basketball career- at Staley’s alma mater- the University ofVirginia.

But that’s not the only reason why she chose to attend UVa.

“I love the coaches,” Zoll said. “I know Coach Ryan knows how to coach point guards like Dawn Staley, Dena Evans, all the greats. I wanted to come here. I love the campus, and the academics are great.”

However, the first time she donned a UVa uniform in the season opener against Arizona State, Zoll was overwhelmed. She went 0-5 from the floor but dished out three assists in 33 minutes of action while overcoming her nervousness.

“Oh my God. It was like, you’ve worked your whole life, and now you’re finally here,” she said. “It was so weird. Because I said ‘I want to play college basketball’ when I was a little kid, and I was watching other girls play college basketball. Now it’s like, I’m one of those girls. People are looking up to you- older and younger. It’s just amazing.”

What’s amazing is that the freshman rebounded the next night- her second game- to add four points, four rebounds, and four assists in the win over Maine.

The three-time Street & Smith’s All-American from Highland High School was ranked No. 7 during her senior season by All-Star Girls Report as the best point guard nationally. Also a Parade, WBCA, and McDonald’s All-American, Zoll earned Shore Conference and Monmouth County Player of the Year accolades. Last summer she participated in the USA Women’s Junior National Team Trials.

“We are very, very fortunate to get a player like Sharnee Zoll,” head coach Debbie Ryan said in the preseason. “She is the consummate point guard and the best true point guard in the country this year. Our team will become immediately better with her on it.”

One of only two Cavaliers to start in every game this season, Zoll averages 4.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. In the win over Liberty, Zoll scored a season-high 12 points and dished out a season-high eight assists. She says her biggest adjustment to the college game has been the mental aspect- knowing the plays and where to go on the court.

“Being a point guard my entire life, I’ve been taking responsibility for things,” Zoll said, “but it’s a lot different here. Everything’s your fault if things go wrong. It’s just taking responsibility for the team and trying to motivate my team.”

Zoll’s motivation will keep Virginia on track for a run at the 2005 ACC championship and an appearance in the prestigious NCAA Tournament.

“To be better than we were last year,” Zoll said of her team goals. “For everybody to click on and off the court, and for us basically to be a team that works together and plays our hardest every game. Hopefully the wins will come after that.”

With motivation, hard work, and a positive outlook, Zoll is ready to lead the Cavaliers. With the experience she will gain on the court this season, the point guard can look forward to a successful collegiate career at Virginia.

Get to Know Sharnee Zoll

Food: Lasagna
Ice cream: Toll House Cookie sandwich
Color: Blue
Movie: Love & Basketball
Actor: Larenz Tate
Actress: Halle Berry
Children’s Book: Arthur
Cartoon: Tom & Jerry

My advice to a young athlete is …
don’t let things in your way slow you down.There will always be obstacles,but keep your mind seton a goal, and you will achieve it.

I chose my jersey number, because …
I love the way Dawn Staley plays,and I admire her game.And she’s also from Philly.

I chose Virginia, because …
as soon as I stepped foot on Grounds,I could tell it was right.

I admire Debbie Ryan, because …
she has gone through so many obstaclesin her life that she could have quit.However, she didn’t.

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