L-R: Amanda Sobhy,  Sabrina Sobhy,  Olivia Blatchford,  Natalie Grainger)
The fifth-place finishing 2014 Team USA squad. L-R: Amanda Sobhy, Sabrina Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford, Natalie Grainger (image: squashpics.com)

Two years after achieving Team USA’s best finish of fifth place, the U.S. women’s national team is set to travel to France next week to compete in the biennial 2016 WSF Women’s World Team Championship at the Jeu De Paume and St. Cloud Squash clubs in Paris, November 28-December 3.

The American contingent enters the pool stages of the competition seeded seventh, joining two seeds England, ten seeds Canada and fourteen seeds Mexico in Pool B.

The four-player squad includes three returning players from 2014 in the form of world No. 7 Amanda Sobhy, world No. 30 Olivia Blatchford and Harvard sophomore Sabrina Sobhy, while University of Pennsylvania sophomore Reeham Sedky makes her senior Women’s World Team Championship debut.

“Everyone is really excited, ” said Paul Assaiante, US Squash Ganek Family Head National Coach. “We focused on them getting as ready as they can in the lead up to the tournament with training squads. We want them to go there healthy and for them to be the best version of themselves they can possibly be. You can’t control the pools and you can’t control the draw, but what you can control is how well prepared you are for the event mentally and physically, and how you negotiate the pools so you have the best fitness possible going into the knockout round.”

Sedky (l) in the 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open.
Sedky (l) in the 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open.

Seventeen nations are competing in four pools before the main draw field narrows to the quarterfinals. Boasting three of the world’s top four players, 2008 & 2012 champions Egypt are predicted to meet reigning champions England in the final. England, seven times champions since 1985, won the 2014 title in Canada after beating first-time finalists Malaysia. The runners-up reached the climax after upsetting Egypt in the semifinals.

“Egypt and England are awfully good, so right away going into the quarters two teams are looking at an extremely difficult task, ” Assaiante said. “But that’s the luck of the draw. We are just focusing on being as prepared as possible and being the best versions of ourselves as individuals and a team when we arrive in Paris.”

Assaiante is looking forward to having two new faces as a part of the team in Sedky and first-time US Squash National Coach and French former world No. 1, Thierry Lincou.

“Reeham is playing really well and she’s a tough and consistent player, ” Assaiante said. “Every time she goes out there she’s going to be someone you can rely on which is a great addition. Thierry is so knowledgeable and humble. He’s all about the players and it’s terrific having him on the team. Being in France, it will also be nice to have a Frenchman with us to show us around and make our time there even more enjoyable, so it will be magical having Thierry around on both fronts.”

Assaiante is wary of setting expectations after the record-breaking fifth place finish two years ago in Canada, placing an emphasis on preparation and the young team learning from the experience.

“You really have to be careful comparing yourself with prior finishes, particularly if those prior finishes were very good, ” Assaiante said. “We had things fall our way in Canada, and hopefully the gods of draws will smile on us again. Regardless, I like the fact that this is a very good team, it’s a very keen team, and you have to remember it’s a very young team. We have two college sophomores in Reeham and Sabrina, and Amanda and Olivia are both just twenty-three. They’re not only going to be vying for medals, but they’re also going to be getting terrific learning experiences that will keep us competing at the top for a long time to come.”