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Petersen return unhinged by a severe knee injury

ASHLAND-- Former Ashland High athlete Sarah Petersen gave up the good life in paradise to come home and play for the Southern Oregon University women's basketball team this season.

In her return, the 6-foot-2 1/2 junior transfer sacrificed much: She gave up not only a full basketball scholarship at Hawaii, but also a warm, cozy lifestyle near the beach in Honolulu and numerous friends.

What did she get in return? Pain.

Based on what's happened to the 21-year-old Petersen during her first six months in Ashland, one couldn't blame her for having second thoughts about her move. She suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee Dec. 17 against Seattle Pacific and will undergo major reconstructive surgery Wednesday in Ashland.

I'm pretty down, but I'm trying to stay positive, says Petersen. It's hard, but I'm determined to get past this.

I'm still glad I came home. If this (injury) had happened in Hawaii, I would have been there by myself to deal with this. Here, I have my friends and my parents supporting me.

She won't be able to run at full speed for six months following her surgery.

It's going to be a long road back, but I'm up for it, says Petersen, who was leading SOU in scoring (11.5 points a game) and in rebounding (5.6) when she was injured. I'll be able to ride a bike and swim after a short time, but running and playing basketball hard seems a long ways away.

Petersen was pushed from her blind side by a Seattle defender when the injury occurred. Her left knee buckled under the pressure.

I said, `Oh, my God, no. But I knew something was wrong, says Petersen. I've cried a lot; I still cry.

Raider coach Shirley Huyett says SOU has appealed to the NAIA to retrieve Petersen's junior year of eligibility based on a hardship request.

Part of the reason is that it was on a cheap shot, and Sarah couldn't do anything about it, says Huyett. Also, she never got to play in a conference game.

If the appeal is turned down, Petersen will have only her senior year of eligibility remaining.

It makes me sick, says Petersen. Our team was just starting to come together and this has to happen. But I'm committed to be back.

Petersen says she had never suffered a serious injury since she started playing basketball in the sixth grade.

I didn't even have a sprained ankle during all those years, she says. I just wasn't injury-prone at all. That's why it's hard to take.

The doctors say I'll have a complete recovery. That keeps me going.

Since the start of the season, Petersen was the focal point of SOU's offense. There was an adjustment period as she got used to her new teammates and the system.

She was starting to feel comfortable, says Huyett. After we lost her, we lost three straight games. It was a shock. With her, I don't think we would have lost any of those games.

Petersen, a communications major, says she's not looking back on what might have happened if she had stayed at Hawaii.

I'm a Raider, she says. I'm glad I came back home to play.

I'm grateful I got to play in 11 games and improve and help my team. I love Shirley (Huyett). She has already helped me improve a lot.

MT file photo Sarah Petersen played two years at Hawaii.