It’s no secret that Penn women's squash junior Jessica Davis has had trouble staying on the court.
“She’s a little bit like Humpty Dumpty,” coach Jack Wyant joked, comparing Davis to the oft-injured fairy tale character. “We’ve got to piece her together for every match.”
Davis only played four matches last year, as injuries prevented her from competing for much of the season. Yet while many other athletes might have quit when faced with this much time off, Davis is a trailblazer.
“I'd estimate that she's got to be in the top five of all Penn athletes in terms of time spent in the training room,” Wyant said. “She’s worked really hard to get back from her injuries.”
Her road to recovery was a long one, but she had help along the way.
“I give a lot of credit to Meredith [Henze] and our training staff. I know she's also spent a lot of time with doctors at Penn Sports Medicine and doctors back [in England] when she was there last summer,” Wyant said. “It’s a collection of people with which I have nothing to do, but I give all of those guys full credit for piecing her together.”
Davis’ motivation to get back on the court and practice has been a primary factor for her post-recovery success.
“Being out last year was a motivating factor,” Davis said. “I'm grateful for the time I have on the court, and I want to do my best while I’m here.”
Wyant echoed Davis’ sentiment.
“My sense is that because she's had a year away, she appreciates how short the window is to compete at this level, and she appreciates it in a way that she didn't in her first or second year,” Wyant said. “Therefore, she's really attentive to how her body is feeling and how to address those ailments that she faces on a day-to-day basis.”
For Davis, it’s the day-to-day routine that’s most important.
“I like getting the treatment in that I need each day, putting in the time on the court, doing recovery, and getting into the rhythm that I get into each day at Penn,” she said.
This year, her hard work has been paying off. Replacing Melissa Alves at the No. 2 spot on the ladder behind Reeham Sedky, Davis hasn’t missed a beat: she’s 7-0 this season, and she hasn’t dropped a game. She has been instrumental in the Quakers’ wins over No. 4 Stanford and No. 9 Drexel, among other wins against top 10 opponents.
Wyant has been impressed with Davis’ ability to step up in Alves’ absence this year.
“She knew this year that she was going to have to shoulder more responsibility by playing higher on the ladder, so she's worked really hard to elevate her game,” Wyant said. “The other thing that I would say that's helped is that she gets the most time with Reeham, which helps her improve a lot since she’s playing the best of the best.”
Coming from England, Davis has had to adjust to a vastly different squash culture in the U.S.
“The biggest change is being on an actual squash team. In England, you play individually, whereas here you play on a team,” Davis said. “That being said, I love the atmosphere and my teammates here. All the preparation running up to it while the team is bonding and being together, it's great energy.”
Davis will spend this week preparing for matches on Saturday against Trinity and Colby before resuming Ivy League play next Wednesday at Princeton.