Many college athletes dream of someday taking their skills to the pros. Rarely does it happen the other way around.
But for freshman Amanda Sobhy, who is currently ranked No. 29 in the Women’s International Squash Player’s Association, the college game has always been in the plan.
“I’ve been playing as an individual for most of my life,” Sobhy says. “Being a part of a college team was one of the main reasons I decided to play in college rather than just play professionally…. It’s like a family.”
Sobhy—the 2010 Junior World Champion and the youngest woman to win four WISPA titles—is the most highly-touted player in college squash history. In her perfect 15-0 rookie campaign, the freshman never dropped a set on her way to both an individual and team title in her first year with the Crimson.
Not only was her record pristine, but it came against the country’s best competition. In the Howe Cup final against Yale, Sobhy dropped the defending individual national champion Millie Tomlinson, 11-1, 11-3, 11-1.
With dominance comes pressure to always succeed, but Harvard coach Mike Way believes his rookie sensation got the job done when she when she was called upon.
“Her opponents in those matches are very relaxed and they are free to play,” Way says. “[Sobhy] is not free to play because of expectation. But I think she’s maturing and growing as a player and not just in college squash.”
In addition to giving her two college national titles, 2012 has so far proved successful for the Sea Cliff, N.Y., native individually. Entering as an amateur, Sobhy has continued to play in the pro circuit, most notably advancing to the quarterfinals of the Cleveland Classic by downing the No. 2 and No. 6-ranked women in the world.
For Sobhy, the tournament proved that she could succeed at both the college and professional level simultaneously.
“[The Cleveland Classic] was the first time I beat a top-five player,” Sobhy says. “I was happy with how I played, especially because so many people overseas and so many professionals said, ‘Oh, you can’t improve in college.’ It’s nice to prove these people wrong and to show them that you can go to a top university and still do well on the professional circuit as well.”
Though her on-court achievements propelled the team to new heights, Sobhy’s greatest contributions came from her presence off the court, according to co-captain Cece Cortes.
“Without her, we definitely would not be the positive, winning team that we were this year,” Cortes says. “We don’t have the team chemistry we had this year without her.”
Cortes remembers Sobhy making her impact early. While her participation in professional tournaments was reviewed, Sobhy was withheld from the first 30 percent of Harvard’s season.
“When she was not able to play in October and November, she came to all of our important matches,” Cortes says. “She was there with her foam finger and helping everyone out, being a teammate and a source of support.”
When Sobhy’s debut did finally come against Penn, she dropped Quaker captain and unanimous All-Ivy Selection Nabilla Ariffin, 11-5, 11-1, 11-0.