Above: At just fifteen years old, Marina Stefanoni is already ranked No. 77 in the world professionally.
by Chris McClintick
Five past champions picked up another national title at the sixty-third National Juniors, four of which came in new age divisions.
The girls’ U19 draw saw four 2017 World Juniors teammates—Marina Stefanoni, Elisabeth Ross, Laila Sedky and Elle Ruggiero—reach the semifinals. After three dominant performances on her way to the semis, Stefanoni found herself in an unusual position. She was down 2-1 against Ross, the 2017 U17 champion. Fifteen-year-old Stefanoni steadied the ship to win the fourth and fifth games 11-3. In her final the Darien, Connecticut, made no mistake on her way to a third straight GU19 title, defeating Sedky 11-6, 11-2, 11-4.
Stefanoni, a high school freshman, is now one National Junior title away from matching Lily Lorentzen’s record of four consecutive GU19 titles from 2002-2005. Stefanoni is just the fifth player in history to win three consecutive girls’ U19 national titles, joining Lorentzen, Sabrina Sobhy, Louisa Hall and Alicia McConnell. “It’s never been easy these past three years,” said Stefanoni, “so it feels good to win another title.”
New York City’s Daelum Mawji claimed a maiden national title BU19 final. Mawji entered the BU19 draw as the eight seed after missing JCT appearances this season due to injury. Mawji dispatched top seed Ayush Menon in the quarters, and set up a rematch of the 2017 U17 final against fellow New Yorker Tiber Worth. The seventeen-year-old, avenging his 2017 loss against Worth, took the four-game final. Mawji and Worth will lead Team USA in the Men’s World Junior Team Championship in India this summer.
“He’s a great player,” Mawji said of Worth. “We’ve been playing each other almost every single tournament over the past two years, so I knew how fit and strong he was. This is my first national title and I’m just so excited that my family and my coach came out to support me.”
New York City boasted a second first-time boys’ champion in the form of Maxwell Velazquez in the U17 division, where he edged surprise finalist Jed Burde in a five-game final. Meghna Sreedhar was one of two Philadelphian champions. Three years after claiming the U15 title, Sreedhar fulfilled her top seed to collect her second national title and first in the U17 division.
In the GU15 division, Lucie Stefanoni followed in her older sister’s footsteps by claiming a third national title, adding her first GU15 title to her GU13 titles in 2016 and 2017.
The weekend was a particularly memorable one for the Tew family from Cincinnati, Ohio. At the inaugural Junior Awards Dinner on Saturday night, Neal Tew, founder of the T Squash Center, was honored with the USOC Developmental Coach of the Year Award. On Sunday, his son John Paul won a third career national title in the BU15 division, following up on a BU11 title in 2014 and a BU13 title in 2016.
Philadelphia’s second national champion came in the BU13 division, where Andrew Glaser defeated top seed Nick Agger to claim his second national title, following up his U11 title in 2016. Boston’s Caroline Eielson made a surprise title run in the GU13 division to capture her first, upsetting the top two seeds on the way.
The youngest draws also drew attention. After placing third at the British Junior Open, Tuxedo Park’s Christian Capella capped off his banner season with his first BU11 national title. Four years after competing in the Junior Silver Squash Championships as a seven year old, Maryland’s Eliza Schuster won her first national title in the GU11 division.