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Stopping Short is a tall order

Sherry Short, who took four years off from college, is enjoying a verysuccessful senior season with Southern Oregon.

ASHLAND -- Sherry Short is squeezing in the last bit of competitive volleyballshe can before getting on with her life.

And the Raiders of Southern Oregon University are glad she's doing itfor them.

At age 25, Short is long on experience, both on and off the court, comparedto her teammates not far removed from high school.

Being 25, I enjoy playing more than I ever have, says the5-foot-11 senior outside hitter.

Last year, her first after a four-year hiatus from college, Short ledSouthern Oregon in kills (342), aces (41) and in digs (302). She was thefirst Raider since 1989 to lead the team in those categories.

This year, she leads Southern Oregon in kills (221) and ranks secondin digs (138) and aces (22).

Age is immaterial, says her coach, Paul Elliott.

I couldn't care less if she's 25, he says. The keyis she doesn't look 25 and she doesn't play like it. If you didn't knowshe's 25, you would guess she's the same age as the other girls. Or maybeyounger.

Short is a big reason Southern Oregon is 15-2, ranked fourth in the regionand expecting to break into the national NAIA Division I poll today forthe first time in five years.

School is my main focus now, and that just makes volleyball morefun than anything, says Short. It's almost a release from workinghard in class.

That's different for me because volleyball used to be my life.It meant everything to me.

Her perspective has changed since she left Crescent Valley High Schoolof Corvallis to play volleyball and basketball at Mount Hood Community Collegein Gresham. She was there for one year, 1990-91, then transferred to Linn-BentonCommunity College in

Albany, where she played both sports the following year.

Then came her break from college volleyball. Over the next four years,until enrolling at then-Southern Oregon State College, Short continued schooling,got married, entered the work force, served as an assistant volleyball coachat Crescent Valley and played in city leagues.

There have been peaks and valleys.

She was an all-star in volleyball and basketball in junior college, andshe maintained a grade-point average above 3.50.

But just two months ago, Short went through one of her most difficultexperiences when her four-year marriage ended in divorce.

It was hard, but it was something I needed to do, she says.Things weren't working out, and I needed to get out of it.

I learned a lot in four years of marriage. First, I was too youngto get married at 21. My mother tried to tell me, but I wouldn't listen.I have already told her I will listen next time. I wasn't mature enoughto handle it.

Her maturity now makes her the target of good-humored badgeringfrom her teammates.

One of my teammates called me `mom' the other day, and I didn'tlike it, says Short. But she was just teasing me. I finallylaughed about it.

Fortunately, most people don't think I look 25.

Short wants to become a small-college teacher and coach after she graduatesfrom SOU.

I'm totally focused on school and getting a degree and a real job,she says. Then, I can get a real car and have a real life.

In the meantime, she'll finish her volleyball career.

I'm enjoying everything about school and I'm playing pretty wellin volleyball, she says. At my age, I know I have to lead byexample. I don't talk a lot on the court. I just play hard and try to bea leader that way.

As an offensive star in high school and junior college, Short says she'slearned to play defense for coach Paul Elliott.

I've found getting down on the floor and digging the ball is fun,she says. It's almost as fun as hitting. But offense is still my game.

Elliott agrees.

She's a physical athlete with grace and agility, he says.If she was 20 years old right now, she could play (NCAA) DivisionI volleyball.

It's a nice thought, but she's happy where she is.

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Stopping Short is a tall order