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Amanda Sobhy of Sea Cliff seeks squash glory in Pan Am Games

Amanda Sobhy, a nationally-ranked women's squash player from

Amanda Sobhy, a nationally-ranked women's squash player from Sea Cliff who just graduated from Harvard, poses for a photo on July 3, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

It has been a breathless past few weeks for Amanda Sobhy. The 22-year-old from Sea Cliff graduated from Harvard in late May, traveled to Egypt the next week and is now in Toronto competing in the Pan American Games. Sobhy plays squash, and after a distinguished college career, she is the 10th-ranked women's player in the world.

"I really love the fast pace, high intensity of the game," Sobhy said.

The North Shore High School graduate thrives in those situations.

While pursuing her degree in social anthropology, Sobhy became only the second woman to win four national championships and finished her college career 62-0.

Mike Way, Sobhy's coach at Harvard, said "mental strength" is the key to her success.

"You cannot do what she did without being a tough cookie," Way said. "Some players, when they don't have their A game, panic sets in and they're all over the place. She's able to play through it."

Squash is a racket sport played in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Invented in England around 1830, its rackets are larger than those used in racquetball and the balls are smaller. Unlike racquetball, there are boundaries, and balls that hit the ceiling or go out of bounds are ruled out.

Sobhy started playing the sport thanks to her parents.

Her father, Khaled Sobhy, was born in Egypt and said he was once the 35th-ranked player in the world. He's now a squash instructor at the Creek Club in Locust Valley. Her mother, Jodie Larson, a music teacher in the North Shore district, won a skill-level national amateur tournament.

"I was given the choice when I was 12," Sobhy said, "Choose either . . . The aspect of the game that I loved was how intense it was, how much it made you think."

Her sister, Sabrina, 18, also chose squash.

The recent graduate of North Shore High School will start classes -- and collegiate squash -- at Harvard in the fall.

Their brother Omar, 24, was a player who helped put George Washington University squash on the map and now runs Sobhy Squash & Fitness in Washington, D.C.

"It's a family affair," Omar said. "It's a blessing. Every time we come home, we're always training against each other."

Amanda Sobhy entered the Pan Am games as the favorite for the gold medal in the women's individual tournament, which began Saturday and wraps up next Friday. Her first match is Sunday at 10 a.m. against Thalsa Serafini of Brazil.

"Everyone is basically killing themselves to get the gold," she said. "I'm excited. I feel like . . . a little kid in a candy shop -- the huge arena and the opening ceremony . . . It's really new."

Omar said he will be paying close attention to the games, Sabrina might even make the trip to Toronto for the finals, and Larson is already there.

"I'm so excited because she has so much potential and now she gets to represent her country and her family and do her personal best," Larson said. Going into the Pan American Games, the last American woman to beat Amanda Sobhy was Sabrina, back in 2014.

"I don't know what happened," said a laughing Sabrina, who is ranked 47th. "I played extremely well and she didn't. We've never played again."

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