Hartford, Conn. - Last Wednesday evening the women's squash match between Trinity College and Yale University was tied at 4-4, and everyone but one person in the building knew it.
"I didn't want to ask," said Trinity freshman Kanzy El-Defrawy. "Then I only started to hear cheers for me, and that's when I knew I was the last one left. I knew I couldn't let everyone down. I played, almost unconsciously. I can't explain. It just happened."
Two miraculous points later, the match was over, as the Bulldogs fell to the Bantams, 5-4. El- Defrawy is currently 12-0 as Trinity's No. 1 player in the varsity lineup, and none of those wins topped the dramatic 3-2 triumph against Yale's No. 2-ranked MIllie Tomlinson that gave the Bantams a 5-4 win.
The morning after her late-match heroics that lifted Trinity women's squash over the long-time rival Bulldogs of Yale, and El Defrawy hasn't slept much. Too excited to sleep, she did what she usually did when she's not resting. She headed to the courts to practice.
Originally from Cairo, Egypt, El Defrawy has had a racquet in her hand since the age of seven, but it has not always been smooth sailing.
"I hated squash from when I was seven until I was nine," said El Defrawy. "I hated it with all my heart. I didn't know if I was good, and I didn't really like to practice. I cried everyday."
Then she won her first international tournament in Germany, and her attitude toward the sport started to change.
"I played so well, and took second," said El Defrawy. "When I received the trophy, I realized I could do something with squash." She hasn't looked back.
Sparked by the dream of her mother, El Defrawy began playing internationally when she was 13. She competed against women who were routinely between 20 and 30 years old. She exceled, mainly she says, because she had nothing to lose.
"I started aiming for rankings, top 100, top 50, top 40, etc., and before I knew it I was ranked 27th in the world," said El Defrawy.
At about this time, schools began hearing of her too, and she had to give up her other passion, soccer. A member of Egypt's national team, El Defrawy underwent knee surgery at the age of 14, and had trouble recovering. The struggle helped her put things into perspective, and allowed her to decide to shift her focus entirely onto her squash game.
Her feelings toward the game of squash have come full circle, and El Defrawy's impressive dedication illustrates why she is so good at her trade.
"I cannot live a day without squash. I love every aspect of the game. Squash is one of those sports that has to be played every day. I hate taking days off. At most I'll take a half-day. If I don't play, my shots are off," says El Defraw. "Trinity found me when I was 16, along with some other schools, and when I visited I really loved the squash atmosphere. To have a huge squash family like we do here is very rare."
However, the adaption process didn't come as fast as she anticipated. El Defrawy was used to having a coach with her all the time like she had back home. Needless to say, she struggled with the idea of working out in the off-season with just her teammates. She hadn't met everyone yet and felt uncomfortable asking people to play.
"Once I met everyone, it got so much better, she added with a huge smile. "I like being mixed with the men's team and the competition that they bring. It is incredible. I am so thankful for Head Coach Wendy Bartlett and my teammates for taking me in."
A well-rounded student, El-Defrawy has taken an interest in the French language, as well as economics and International Studies. She gladly accepts the challenge of being a student-athlete, and hopes to graduate with a double major consisting of some combination of the three.
Tears of joy have replaced the tears that used to fall during practice, as the rookie has been tirelessly building a squash resume that would definitely discourage most opponents. She has won the Dutch Junior Open five times, the Pioneer Junior Open four times, and has one victory in each of the French and German Junior Opens as well as the African and Arab Cups. She has been twice victorious at the U-19 World Championships, and has over 60 national titles to her name. At home, Kanzy is a celebrity to say the least. A Howe Cup, the American collegiate trophy, would make a nice addition.
When asked to describe herself in one word however, she does not choose great, champion, or superstar, those all of those would be acceptable. Instead, she replies, "I am a fighter. It's known that I don't easily give up."
She proved that late against Yale, and at only 18, it is scary for opponents to think that her fighting instincts are only going to get better.
written by R.J. Ugolik '15