Ashley Manning ’19 is an accomplished squash player, and she is still only a junior. Entering Deerfield as a new sophomore last year, she quickly gained her place on the girls varsity team, earning her spot as not only a top athlete, but the number one seed. Last year, she led the team to claim the Class A New England Championships, finishing second in the #1 flight.
Manning described her experience at the New England Championships: “I can’t explain how amazing that felt. It was a super close five-game match, and when I won, my entire team came running onto the court to congratulate me. Words can’t really describe the emotions I was feeling; I’ll admit I was tearing up. It was in that moment that I realized how much I loved my team and this school, and I recognized how coming to Deerfield was the best choice I ever made.”
However, the athlete’s successes in squash go far beyond the Deerfield courts. Over the week of January 5, Manning traveled all the way to London to represent Team USA at the British Junior Open.
A type of experience most people only dream of, she described it as “surreal,” saying, “In each match, I was wearing a USA top to show that I was representing America, and it was pretty amazing. Wearing that shirt was definitely a lot of pressure, but I recognized that I was part of a team and I was playing for our country, and that was one of the coolest feelings ever.”
Manning went an impressive 5-2 in the girls U17 division, and returned to campus with an even broader understanding of the sport and battling tough competition.
Although this is only her second year at Deerfield, Manning has left an impact not only on the courts, but as a leader on the team. Now as a junior co-captain, she is held in the highest regard by her teammates, and she leads through example and kindness.
Griffin Dewey ’20 said, “Ashley does an amazing job offering support and encouragement to myself and the whole team. She pushes us to work harder and constantly encourages us to do our best. She is a phenomenal captain!”
This season, the girls varsity squash team is undefeated at 6-0 thus far, and Manning has swept through the first seed. Many watched the nail-biting home opener, where she battled against Hotchkiss’s senior captain. After being behind, Manning showed her grit and resilience when she fought back and not only won her match, but won the day for the Big Green.
Despite the pressure of performing at the number one spot, Manning said she manages it by recognizing “that there will be no easy matches, and at this age, everyone knows how to play squash, so it becomes more about strategy and who can last longer. The worst enemy of being seeded number one is letting it get to your head.”
The girls have beaten their first three opponents, but they still have a long season ahead. They are a team with five new players, but Manning says, “Our team dynamic has improved so much from the beginning of the season, and everyone seems to be learning and getting better. I hope that as the season goes on we can keep up with our winning streak, continue to become stronger both as individual players and as a team, and hopefully win New England’s again this year!”
Manning and the rest of the girls will continue to fight towards that goal, facing St. Paul’s at home on January 27. With Manning’s leadership and the team’s unwavering spirit, the sky is the limit.