Helen Bamber doesn't seem like someone who accidentally came into playing squash in high school. As a senior on the Penn women's squash team, Bamber has already amassed three All-American honors and played a key role in the Quakers' national championship last year. Not bad for an athlete who was introduced to the sport through a case of mistaken identity. "My math teacher, who was also the squash coach, mistook me for a different Helen, who was supposed to be good at squash and asked me to come down to practice," Bamber said. "I just thought that he was being nice and I was keen to try something new. I went down to practice, picked up a squash racket and have never put it down." Now among the leaders on one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, Bamber has definitely come a long way. "She's a great leader in her actions, her words, and just the attention and caring she puts into the sport," Penn coach Demer Holleran said. "She's a very hard worker on court and that really rubs off on her teammates." In her junior year, Bamber went a perfect 5-0 in Ivy League play at the No. 4 position. She also posted an overall record of 12-4, -- her best to date. This season Bamber spent the fall semester abroad. She studied at the University of Capetown in South Africa, which forced her to miss the Quakers' first three matches before returning to the United States. "As a coach and for the team, it was a really big loss and it was tough for us to lose her," Holleran said. "The real test was how we responded and [our players] rose to the occasion and we were able to get through it undefeated." Upon her return, Bamber was thrown into the most difficult stretch of the season. The Quakers were going up against Trinity and Princeton, the teams ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the national preseason polls. Emerging with two victories by winning six consecutive matches, Bamber proved that in spite of her time away from the Quakers, she has returned primed for competition. "Coming back in the middle of the season has been tough both physically and mentally," Bamber said. "I especially found it tough to adjust to competing under pressure, but our first few tough matches have given me a lot of confidence." On top of her contributions to the Quakers as an athlete, Bamber is also well-appreciated for the attitude she brings to the locker room. "She's a very positive player in the sense that she tries to encourage everyone," Penn senior co-captain Rina Borromeo said. "Out of all of the intercollegiate players, she has among the best on-court composure I've seen." Even the newcomers to the Red and Blue, despite having known Bamber for only a month or so, have come to recognize her encouraging personality. "She has such a good attitude no matter what," Penn freshman Dafna Wegner said. "She's definitely a good player, but she's fun to watch because not only does she try no matter what, but she has a good on-court attitude as well." Bamber, along with fellow seniors Borromeo, Megan Fuller, and co-captain Lauren Patrizio, will play the final matches of their Penn careers in front of a home crowd this weekend when the Quakers face top-ranked Harvard on Saturday and Dartmouth on Sunday. "Obviously we want to have two victories at the end of the weekend and remain undefeated in Ivy dual-matches," Borromeo said. "I think the four of us especially want to finish with wins on both days with our home base behind us." The Crimson match looks to be the more intriguing of the weekend doubleheader as both teams will head into the match with overall records of 4-1. Both teams' losses came at the hands of Trinity. While the Crimson are heading into the weekend after a tough 5-4 loss to the Bantams last Saturday, the Quakers have momentum and confidence on their side after a 6-3 victory at Princeton last Thursday. "This weekend is going to be good," Bamber said. "Harvard should be a bit down because of their loss to Trinity last weekend, they are playing away and they have to play Princeton the day after they play us. All those things are to our advantage." The Big Green (8-5 overall), ranked sixth in the preseason polls, will be looking to pull an upset against Penn after facing the Tigers on Saturday. "Dartmouth is known to be a scrappy team," Borromeo said. "They're fighters and we can't take them lightly." Most importantly, the Quakers will be looking to build momentum as they head to the Howe Cup, hosted by Yale on February 16-18, as the reigning champions. "The seniors want to go out with a bang," Holleran said. "And as a whole, the team wants to end with a sound win."Comments powered by Disqus
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