Navmi Sharma traveled across the world from India to play for Penn women's squash, and so far, her travel has paid off.
During her first season, Sharma achieved an impressive 10-6 record, switching off between the fifth and sixth slots in Penn’s lineup. As a rookie on the team, she contributed both regular season and postseason wins for the Quakers.
Three of Sharma’s 10 wins resulted from five-game matches. Overall, she played six matches that had extended to five games. In each case, the score of the final game was close, regardless of the final result. In addition, she won two of her matches in four games, bouncing back from slight setbacks.
Sharma showed that she was able to maintain composure in her matches on multiple occasions. She forced her match against No. 4 Trinity’s senior Lakeesha Rarere into five games, as well her her contest against junior Madeleine Chai of No. 1 Harvard.
Sharma, who came to Penn from Mumbai, India, began playing squash when she was 10 years old. Her mom had encouraged her to participate in a summer camp where she learned the sport.
Though she had brief stint as a basketball player in middle school, squash remained Sharma’s main sport. She continued to play over the summers, and at 12 years old, Sharma joined the national team as a representative for her state, Maharashtra.
“We don’t have the system of school teams back home, but [instead] we have national teams for India for our state, and that’s who we’d play for,” Sharma said. “It’s also an individual sport back home, so you’d be representing yourself most of the time, but for any international tournaments, when you travel, you represent your country.”
As a member of the national team, Sharma would compete against other players from her own state, as well as representatives from other states in India. She also faced international competition.
Sharma played for her national team throughout high school. Her talent led her to place first at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) All-India Open in 2019, as well as third in the 2017 Asian Individual Junior Championships.
In December 2017, Sharma visited America to play in the US Junior Open Squash Championships. It was during this trip that she had the opportunity to meet with some of the schools that were recruiting her. Penn was Sharma's number one choice, so she was happy to earn a spot on Penn’s team.
“It’s been a really different experience training with a team. It’s been really fun. When there are other people training with you, it kind of motivates you to give your best in practice sessions,” Sharma said. “As a team, we’ve had a good season, we’ve come a long way from where we started in the season and everyone improved a lot throughout, so by the end, there was a marked difference in the way they played and their outcomes. It’s been really good.”
Sharma’s matches have been longer than she was used to in high school. Though many of her matches ended with wins, Sharma founded she had to make some adjustments to her play.
“Playing a long match is a lot more mentally exhausting. It’s definitely physically exhausting and takes a lot out of you, but mentally, the pressure that you feel is kind of scary,” Sharma said.
At Penn, aside from squash, Sharma is part of the Biosphere Program, which focuses on finding ways to address environmental issues through awareness events, and plans to study environmental science.
Despite a total change in scenery, Sharma put up an impressive record for the Quakers. Her grit and dedication for the sport are evident. She is bound to have a great career with the Red and Blue.
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