Plum senior Jones to play hockey for Arizona State

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Monday, March 5, 2018 | 11:00 PM


Katherine Jones is looking to the future to help with her present.

The Plum senior and one of the area's top girls hockey players has signed on to play with the women's team at Arizona State, a Division I program in the American College Hockey Association.

Jones said the opportunity to play in college with the nationally-ranked Sun Devils has given her even more motivation to work through the process after suffering an ACL injury in the fall.

“Getting back to 100 percent was my goal from the start,” said Jones, a member of the Pens Elite U19 girls team.

“Arizona State was and is added motivation. It's in my mind every single day. I want to succeed on that team. That is enough to help get me through these tough months of not playing. It has pushed me through all of these rehab workouts.”

Jones had enjoyed a strong 2017-18 season of 21 games through September and the first half of October until adversity struck while playing in Plum's powder puff football game.

During a play on defense, she planted her left foot and was blocked. Her knee twisted. She heard a pop.

“I knew right away. There was immediate pain,” Jones said. “I didn't know at first which part of the knee was hurt.”

Jones got an MRI and got the results. Everything suddenly changed.

“It was very frustrating,” Jones said. “When I first got the news, I was in utter shock and denial. I couldn't process the fact that I wasn't going to play with the team I've grown to love over a couple years every again.”

Her surgeon said no on-ice work until late May or into June.

“I can definitely say that with this injury, I've learned to not take anything for granted,” Jones said. “I know to enjoy what I am able to do while I can do it. I am back in the gym and am able to work out. I do it as much as I can and am focused on getting back to where I was.”

Despite the injury, Jones has stayed involved with her Pens Elite team and teammates.

“I've gone to all of the tournaments except for one around my surgery time,” she said. “It's been important for me to be as much of a part of the team even though I can't be on the ice with my teammates. The tournaments have been a big part of staying connected and involved.”

Being off the ice, Jones said, has given her a different perspective on the game.

“It's opened my eyes to things like keeping your head up and always knowing where everyone else is on the ice,” she said.

Jones said her teammates have been supportive throughout this process.

“They've made sure I've been handling everything all right,” she said. “When they heard of Arizona State, they were overjoyed for me. They've been great throughout the entire situation.”

Jones, a forward (wing), originally was set on going to Penn State.

“My parents thought I should browse around and see if I found anything else I liked,” she said. “Arizona State was one of those places.”

Jones reached out to the Sun Devils program and connected with coach Lindsay Ellis. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and Jones committed in December.

“Kat was very up front about her injury from the start,” Ellis said. “We've had a few injuries in two short seasons. Just seeing those players be able to bounce back, continue training and continue playing was what helped us realize their careers weren't over. Just by talking with Kat and coming to know her work ethic, we knew she would work through the injury and be ready to play for us and be one of our star players.”

Ellis said Jones' experience will only help the program grow more.

“Kat, coming from an elite program, has that great hockey knowledge that not all of our west coast girls have seen before,” Ellis said. “She's seen some of the top talent in the country, and she's been able to compete with them. We're just excited for her to bring that experience to us and help make our program even better.”

Arizona State finished the 2017-18 season, only the team's second campaign, ranked 15th in ACHA Division I.

“They are a young and up-and-coming program, and I know I will fit in well there,” Jones said.

“They've been extremely supportive. I made sure to let them know I would do everything possible to get back to where I was before the injury.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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