WASHINGTON, D.C. — It took her three years, but she finally got the championship she wanted.
Penn women’s squash star Reeham Sedky won the CSA Individual National Championship on March 4, completing a perfect season in which she dropped just two games in 20 matches. To win the championship, Sedky, a junior, defeated Harvard’s Georgina Kennedy — a rematch of last year’s final — in a 3-1 contest that was heated and testy throughout.
It didn’t take long for the tournament’s top-seeded Sedky to assert her mark on the match. With her trademark hammer blows and long-winded rallies, Sedky flew out of the gates to run up a 7-1 lead on Kennedy in the first game. By the time Harvard’s star woman from England had recovered, the game was almost out of reach. Sedky finished strong with an 11-5 win in the first game.
Kennedy came out stronger in the second to take a quick 6-1 lead, leaving Sedky frustrated as she didn’t get the calls she wanted from the referee. Playing angry, the Seattle native pulled the game back to 9-7, but her comeback fell short and she lost just her second game of the entire season, 11-8.
If the game seemed tense then, it was only about to get worse.
Neither player scored a point in the first three minutes of the third game. Two long rallies and a pair of lets — each of which one player angrily contested — meant that the game prolonged as tensions flared. Kennedy was furious at Sedky’s playing style, which rides a fine line between playing the space effectively and interfering with her opponent, denying full access to the ball. With Sedky up 7-3, the referee issued her a warning that she would be penalized for continuing to ride that line.
“Her swing and her movement is a little bit unorthodox,” coach Jack Wyant explained, “and if you have a referee that goes by the letter of the law, then she can get herself into trouble. And that’s what she was doing today.”
Perhaps unsettled, she fell victim to a quick surge from Kennedy, holding onto a slim 8-7 lead as each player fought for the crucial third game. On the next point, however, Kennedy took a tumble after bumping into Sedky, appearing to roll her ankle in the process. Sedky used it as a turning point to take the next three points and finish the game, up 2-1 and 11 points away from a national championship.
The fourth and final game saw tensions rise high above the center court. Sedky and Kennedy traded points — and barbs — throughout much of the game, until Sedky appeared on the verge of victory after winning five of six points to move up to 9-5. Once again, however, the referee stepped in. Three straight strokes to Kennedy, after ruling Sedky was denying her access to the ball, pulled the game back into contention at 9-8.
The following play was piece of vintage Sedky play. She played the space of the court after settling into the rally, sending Kennedy flying all over the floor. Kennedy, who made some great saves to stay in the point, ultimately crashed into the wall several hits in a row, leaving her unable to recover for one final save. Sedky took the point and the game to 10-8, leaving her one winner away from a championship.
When she forced an error out of Kennedy on the ensuing play, she became Penn squash’s first individual national championship since 1996 — the year before she was born.
“What she did to win the match was allow her opponent access [to the ball],” Wyant said. “That actually is to her benefit. When the rallies go longer, it’s better for her, because no one can keep up with her pace. There’s probably 10 people in the whole world who can keep up with her pace.”
“I’m extremely happy for Reeham,” Wyant continued. “She has worked so hard — not just her three years here, but her entire life. She has scratched and clawed for everything she’s ever accomplished, and I’m overjoyed for her. I’m indebted to her for everything she’s done.”
The road to the final wasn’t easy for Sedky. In the semis, she faced another one of Harvard’s finest and her oldest rival, Sabrina Sobhy. As with their previous meeting this season, the decade-long foes duked it out, but Sedky came out on top after just three games.
In the previous round, Sedky had to face her teammate and captain, Melissa Alves. The two had a light-hearted match, featuring a pair of instances in which Alves was gifted a point by the referee, but disagreed with the call and so denied the reward. Their friendly rivalry was also over after just three games.
Sedky wasn’t the only member of Penn squash to walk away with some hardware on the day. Women's sophomore Lindsay Stanley won the consolation bracket for her draw, while men's sophomore David Yacobucci made it to the final of the Molloy North Division draw and finished runner-up after falling in five games.
Men's senior James Watson also made it to the consolation final of his bracket, though he lost in four games. Senior Marie Stephan’s women’s consolation final appearance rounded out the Quakers’ representation in championship finals for the weekend.
The tournament concluded every player’s season — but for one. Sedky will continue on for one more week to compete at the US Squash National Championships.