The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Freshman Dafna Wegner serves on the squash court, but she also served in the Israeli Army. The 21-year-old is currently the No. 1 squash player in Israel.<br> (Will Burhop/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

In some ways, Penn women's squash player Dafna Wegner is your typical college student. She leads a typical college life, replete with classes, homework, practice and friends. However, while most Penn students would probably say that about a year ago they were grumbling about getting up for a 10 a.m. class, Wegner -- a 21-year old freshman -- was serving in the Israeli army. "I was in the intelligence, in a computer unit," Wegner said. "We basically did a lot of things concerning computers, like offering support to other units in the army." Wegner's impressive squash history -- including a No. 1 ranking in Israel since 1998 -- earned her special status within the army, allowing her to continue to actively practice and compete while carrying out her military duties. And while her time in the army was certainly not an easy period in her life, she knows that her experiences have helped her already. "If you would have asked me if I was enjoying my service while I was in the army, the answer would be no," she said. "But now that I look back I can definitely say that I learned a lot from it. Some things were useful even in coming here to Penn and getting used to a different environment." Wegner has had to face many transitions in the past year -- from soldier to student, from life in Israel to that in Philadelphia. And she's even had to deal with change on the squash courts -- adjusting to team play. "Joining the team was a new experience for me. Squash is an individual sport and I never had the chance to play on a team before," Wegner said. "My teammates helped a lot to make the transition easier. I can come to any one of them for help or advice about anything from school to squash." Last season, sophomore Runa Reta was in a comparable situation when, like Wegner, she entered a veteran lineup to play at the No. 2 position as a rookie. As a result, Rena has been able to offer Wegner some advice about making the transition to intercollegiate play from a position of experience. "The main thing most players have to adjust to is coming in to a team scenario," Reta said. "You're used to going to play competitively for yourself and with your own coach. When you play for a team, you don't get as much attention, and it's definitely a major change." Joining a national championship team that is coming off its most successful season in history was not as daunting to Wegner as it might have been to other athletes. "Knowing they won the national championship didn't put any pressure on me," she said. "Instead, it motivated me to do my best and contribute as much as I can to the team so that we will win again this year." Right now, however, Wegner has been unable to play due to a chronic injury. Her status remains uncertain as she consults with doctors. But as Penn squash looks to the future, Wegner is sure to play a significant role. "Next year we won't have a large upperclass," coach Deming Holleran said. "Stronger players get an almost automatic respect and they're looked for in attitude and work ethic. I think she will be a strong leader for us in the future." And while Wegner may be temporarily relegated to the sidelines and permanently not a vocal player, she certainly provides a sense of leadership on the courts. "She's a silent leader," senior co-captain Lauren Patrizio said. "She leads by example and gives everything a 100 percent effort. She works extremely hard and that's the best example anyone can set for the team." Wegner's age and international experience have brought added maturity to a Red and Blue roster that boasts a plethora of freshmen. "Being older than regular freshmen brings a level of maturity and seriousness which is nice since we have several new players," Reta said. "I think her experiences in Israel, like serving in the army and just growing up there, really made her well-grounded."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.