Cliched or not, practice makes perfect. Just ask Marie Stephan.
From the start of the 2014-2015 season, the sophomore has won 25 regular season matches without dropping a single one. Her dominance has spanned marquee Ivy League battles with top teams like Harvard and Dartmouth and even contests with heavyweight Trinity.
Stephan is coming off a straight-games victory over Yale senior Annie Ballaine on Sunday, bringing her to an unblemished 11-0 on the season. However, her record seems to be the last thing on her mind when entering the court.
“Every time I have to go play a match, I go in there and just do the job. I don’t want to let the team down, and we always need five points, so I just try to get mine,” Stephan said. “I try to not think about it because I don’t want to jinx it. Every streak has to end at some point, so I just try to think about the match I’m going in and not the overall record.”
Coach Jack Wyant knows that her accomplishments are not mere coincidences, and the coach lends great credit to her training regimen.
“First of all when talking about Marie, she is, if not the hardest worker on our team, [she’s at least] in that group. She’s a gym rat,” Wyant said. “She spends tons of time down here on court in her individuals with Gilly outside of practice and she’ll hit solo. Oftentimes I’ll park my car behind Ringe and come in and walk past Fox Fitness Center and see her on a stationary bike just pounding out miles.”
Explaining the keys to her success as simply “hard work,” Stephan understands the importance of the mental game as well.
“Honestly, wanting to and showing you want to win makes a big difference. It’s just the willpower,” she said.
Hailing from Nimes, France, Stephan has complied quite a squash resume, including some international highlights. The sophomore has been a member of the U-19 French National Junior Team since 2011, claiming first place at the U-19 International French Junior Open in 2014. Last year at Penn, she was honored as both CSA first-team All-America and first-team All-Ivy during the Quakers’ 7-0 Ivy season.
Wyant lauds her top-flight experience as incredibly valuable and, moreover, recognizes the fire in his player.
“One of the reasons she is so successful is because she is so passionate. She was born with that,” he said. “We can try to bring it out if it’s there. I don’t know if it’s a love for winning or a hatred for losing, but whatever that is, it’s just inside.”
Discussing preferences for intangible advantages like match locations or times, Stephan proved once again why she’s a winner.
“I could play first shift, middle shift or last shift. I don’t mind honestly as long as I just play. There’s no conditions I need to play under,” Stephan said. “I enjoy playing any time of the day and any match. I really love the sport and love my team, and I just want to win.”
While currently playing No. 4 on the Quakers’ ladder, her supremacy could raise the possibility of a promotion. Wyant recognizes her drive to push herself further and continually better her game, but can make no assurances of position changes going forward.
He summed it up best by stamping the classic adage on her string of victories thus far.
“The old saying about hard work paying off is personified with Marie. She has a tremendous work ethic, so that combined with her talent and her international experience gives her an edge,” Wyant said.
With only two regular season matches left — a battle against Columbia at Ringe and then a trip to Cornell — maybe Stephan can pull off the impossible and command two spotless seasons.
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