If you love something, set it free.
That’s a lesson Penn women’s squash had to learn when superstar Reeham Sedky graduated last spring. In her wake, Sedky leaves behind an open No. 1 slot and a vacant captaincy.
Sedky’s four seasons as a Quaker were nothing short of remarkable. As the resident No. 1 seed since her freshman year, she helped lead the Red and Blue to two appearances at the Howe Cup finals. Sedky was named first team All-America and first team All-Ivy all four seasons at Penn and in her junior year, she became Penn’s first women’s Individual National Champion since 1996.
She capped off her stellar collegiate career by earning the Betty Richey Award in February, the most prestigious individual women’s collegiate squash award bestowed by the College Squash Association.
“[She’s left a] huge void,” coach Jack Wyant said. “You can’t replace a player like Reeham. She’s a generational talent. [She was] virtually a win in just about every match she played for Penn.”
Since her graduation, Sedky has turned her focus to the professional squash circuit, most recently winning the 2019 MTC Squash Russian Open this past August. As the No. 2 seed, she upset No. 1 Emilia Soini of Finland in three games to win the championship match. This secured her third victory in a row on the Professional Squash Association World Tour and qualifies her for the 2019-2020 CIB PSA Women’s World Championship, one of the biggest events in professional women’s squash.
Needless to say, Sedky is doing better than fine in her first season as a full-time professional. But the question remains: what about the Quakers?
In terms of leadership, the Red and Blue are in good hands with their current captains, senior Jessica Davis and junior Julia Buchholz.
“We have terrific captains this year,” Wyant said. “Jessica Davis [is] a great communicator [and] a really caring teammate. And Julia Buchholz is a junior. She’s just a classic overachiever. She’s had a very amazing career for us. Those are two very deserving captains.”
Both upperclassmen have proven themselves capable of leading by example. Last year, Davis earned first team All-Ivy honors after matching her career high of 11 wins in a season. Bouncing back from an injury-plagued sophomore year where she only appeared in four matches, Davis was indispensable at the No. 2 slot.
“I want to make sure that everyone on this team has the confidence that they can go out and win a match,” Davis said of her leadership goals for this season. “Whether you’re at the top of the ladder, or whether you’re at the bottom of the ladder, everyone has every chance of taking a game, taking three games, taking a whole match, whatever. I just want everyone to believe that they’re in the best position to give a great performance.”
Meanwhile, Buchholz competed at the No. 4 slot, tallying 10 wins on the season last year. Along with Sedky and junior Haley Scott, Buchholz was one of only three Quakers to record a win in Penn’s eighth-place finish at the Howe Cup in 2019.
In addition to their seasoned core of veterans, Penn will also look towards a talented freshman class to fill Sedky’s shoes. The Quakers welcomed a relatively large class of five this year, with athletes hailing from the United States, India, and Egypt.
The new faces haven’t changed the team dynamic in any capacity.
“More freshmen have come in, and they all offer something incredible to the team that we didn’t obviously have last year,” Davis said. “But I feel that the team is gelling just as well as it did.”
Freshman Ashley Manning is one name to watch. The New York native starts her Penn career ranked No. 52 in the United States. Manning also brings a wealth of experience with USA Squash, having competed earlier this year at the 2019 US Junior Squash Championships and in 2018 by representing her country at the British Junior Open.
“While it’s impossible to replace Reeham," Wyant said, “Maybe we’re doing it with five for one.”