Penn squash doesn’t rebuild, it just reloads.
An outsider might be wondering how the Quakers will perform this year after Reeham Sedky’s graduation. Freshman Ashley Manning has come in to start to fill that gap.
The Rye, N.Y. native came to Penn after being ranked No. 8 in the country as a senior in high school and winning the Class A New England Championship in 2018 at Deerfield Academy. On Nov. 17 in a match against No. 7 Drexel, she found herself in a challenging situation.
“Everybody is watching her game, and this final match could be the difference between Penn winning and losing,” senior Jessica Davis said. “She kept up with her game plan, and she dug deep and pushed through the physical strains of the match. That's something that is tough for anyone to do, whether you're a senior or a freshman, and she demonstrated that she is able to take that pressure on and not let it affect her game."
Penn has always been in Manning's life from a young age, and she was always considering it as a school to attend. On top of the great education and familial ties, she was drawn into the opportunity to be a part of the Penn squash family.
"My dad went to business school at Wharton, so it has always been in the back of my head,” Manning said. ”Penn seemed like the perfect balance between valuing squash, academics, and social life. The girls on the team seemed they were very close in the relationships between coach and teammates. Everything felt very natural, and it was the most appealing school for me personally.”
She didn’t even realize how important Penn squash would be to her until she stepped on campus and had an immediate support system in everything from athletics to academic and social life.
“I can say 100% whole-heartedly [that] this group of girls has been so much fun to get to know, to hang out with and to practice with,” Manning said. “It has been so much fun to have them both on the court as teammates and off the court as friends, as mentors and as people to go to when I need advice both about squash and adapting to a new college environment. I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of girls to experience this with.”
Freshmen usually take time to adjust to the faster-paced game at the college level, but Manning hasn’t skipped a beat by doing all the little things right.
“Ashley has been a fantastic addition to the team,” coach Jack Wyant said. ”She does the little things that are important, like she's showing up on time, giving maximum effort in practice every day, and is also a great teammate. Sometimes freshmen are reserved, and she is extremely outgoing, she is unintimidated by the upperclassmen."
The unwavering support of her new teammates and having role models in the older girls has made her transition to collegiate squash seamless.
“It's been great. I played at my boarding school and for my junior and senior years I was the oldest, so it has been a lot different having such positive people to look up to like my two captains,” Manning said. “They are just so dedicated to the team and [to] themselves to improving. They are amazing mentors and role models for the underclassmen to look up to.”
Manning's record is 3-1 through the team's first four matches, which has been a strong beginning to her college career — but she knows that there is still room for improvement.
“Improving is always a goal,” Manning said. “Our team goal is to finish fifth in the nation this year, and I want to win as many matches as I can. There are a lot of girls that are older than me that play the position that I am playing in, and to give it my all and win as many as I can and continue to keep getting better is something I hope to do throughout the season.”
Her work ethic and skills have made her into someone that even the seniors on the team can learn from.
“She has a fantastic forehand and backhand kill, and that's something that we can all bring into our games,” Davis said. “She has been a great addition to the team, and I’m excited to spend this final year with having her on the team.”
Penn squash will have its ups and downs for the next three years, but fans should expect to see at least one constant in Ashley Manning, as she contends and makes an impact for the rest of her career with the Quakers.