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Penn women's squash was already full of superstars such as Reeham Sedky and Melissa Alves entering the season, but freshman standout Julia Buchholz is quickly making a name for herself.

Credit: Sam Holland

From just around the corner in Fort Washington, Pa. Julia Buchholz watched Penn become one of the best collegiate squash teams. Now, she's a part of it. 

Since joining the team as a walk-on, the freshman has accumulated a seven-game winning streak. She has now risen all the way up to No. 6 on the squash ladder. 

“I knew I wanted to play before I applied to Penn,” Buchholz said. “I couldn't imagine my life without playing squash, so I decided to walk on to the team.”

Credit: Eric Zhang

As a walk-on, Buchholz tries to bring extra enthusiasm to the game. And according to her, her greatest strength on the court is her grit.

“We thought she would be a good college player but didn't expect her to be winning matches in the middle of the lineup, which she already started to do," coach Jack Wyant said. "She is a testament to hard work, dedication, and real passion."

"She is someone who cares so deeply about the game, about maximizing her improvement, and you can just see that day in and day out. It doesn't matter whether she is here for practice or playing in a match she cares about getting the most out of her ability, and she is on her way to doing that.”

Everyone loves an underdog story, and the Quakers have found one in Buchholz. She has taken the league by surprise and does not want to slow down, with her coaches seeing her strive to become the best that she can be.

The veterans on the team have been helping Buchholz climb the ladder. Last week, senior Melissa Alves met with Buchholz in the morning to do pressure sessions.

“The top of our ladder are some of the best players in college squash, so they often volunteer their time to hit with me,” Buchholz said. “They are always going the extra mile to put in the work to help us catch up — their leadership is awesome. Melissa is a great captain — she inspires the rest of us to do our best and play our best.”

This year Buchholz has worked through an ankle injury, but when healthy, she has performed well, even as the rest of the bottom half of the ladder has struggled. 

“I think that if she stays injury free, and if she continues to improve her fitness level, she will reach her potential," Wyant said. "That's the only thing that's separating her from another jump forward. Then she can continue to win higher in the ladder, so I think she is just starting to scratch the surface in terms of her potential." 

Next week against Princeton, this underdog story will look to continue.