Abby Promersberger’s younger self wouldn’t have envisioned she would be signing to play college hockey. If she ever imagined she would be committing to a Division I program, it would have been for soccer.
As a kid, Promersberger’s favorite sport was soccer. She was also in gymnastics. Promersberger’s parents put her in hockey because her older sister, Anna, really wanted to play the sport.
Had it not been for that, the University of St. Thomas would have had one less player in its first NCAA Division I women's hockey recruiting class in school history.
Promersberger, a senior at Fargo Oak Grove, committed to play for St. Thomas in October, and made it official Wednesday, Nov. 11, after signing her letter of intent.
“It’s really exciting to get to commit to a Division I program, to know that I’ve made it that far,” Promersberger said. “But I still have to keep pushing the next four years to improve and be successful.”
Promersberger will be joining a team next fall that will be transitioning from Division III to Division I. The NCAA gave approval for St. Thomas, Minnesota’s largest private college, to move all of its varsity sports to Division I. The Tommies will join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association women’s league in 2021-22 as the eighth women’s program.
“I think it'll be a really awesome experience getting to be part of the history of being on that first Division I team for St. Thomas,” Promersberger said. “They’ve already been so successful as a Division III team. Even if it’s a struggle at first, I don’t think it’ll take long to get up to that compete level.”
The Tommies have won nine Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season or playoff titles in the last six seasons.
After leaving last year to play her junior season for the Twin Cities-based Minnesota Ice Cougars U19 team, Promersberger will play high school hockey in North Dakota for Fargo North-South this year.
The 5-foot-6 senior forward Promersberger led the state in points as a sophomore. She racked up 53 goals and 30 assists in two seasons for North-South.
“I decided before COVID-19 was even a factor that I wanted to play high school again,” said Promersberger, who played for the Spruins as a freshman and sophomore. “I really enjoy playing high school with all my friends and I didn’t really need the exposure this year.”
Promersberger likes being closer to home, which is one of the reasons St. Thomas attracted her. She was looking at another school in the WCHA, one out East and one in Canada.
“I was thinking maybe I would like to step out of my comfort zone a little and go out there, but after the whole pandemic and everything, I realized I actually think it would be nicer to be closer to home,” she said. “Somewhere I can drive to school, don't have to worry about flying or any of that stuff.”
Promersberger was able to visit St. Thomas last January before the pandemic hampered the college recruiting process. She had the option to visit some of the other campuses, but because of the pandemic, couldn’t meet with any of the coaches on campus or see the facilities or rinks.
“It was harder. It pushed stuff back I think, in knowing where I was gonna go because I couldn't see the schools face-to-face,” Promersberger said. “But I also think the pandemic helped my training a lot because I got to train more, and I got to have my sister at home so we could push each other.”
Promersberger’s older sister, Anna, plays hockey at Penn State, where she was named an assistant captain earlier this year. Anna played two seasons (2013-14, 2014-15) for West Fargo before attending Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn.
Anna was home for months because of the pandemic. The pair played in a lot of men’s league pickup games and trained together during that time.
Anna will be a senior at Penn State when Abby enters her freshman year with the Tommies. The Promersberger family will have two Division I hockey players to cheer for in 2021-22.
If it hadn’t been for Anna asking their parents to play the sport as kids, Abby wouldn’t be where she is now, she said.
“When I started playing hockey over the years, I really started to love the sport,” Abby said. “And watching my sister, I knew I wanted to do the same thing as her and play Division I.”