L-R: Amanda Sobhy,  Sabrina Sobhy,  Olivia Blatchford,  Natalie Grainger)
L-R: Amanda Sobhy, Sabrina Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford, Natalie Grainger (image: Steve Line/squashpics.com)

Team USA booked their place in the Women’s World Team quarterfinals Tuesday night by defeating hosts Canada in the Americans’ first match on the ASB GlassCourt at White Oaks Resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

With the three match victory over eleventh-seeded Canada, Team USA ensured at least a second-place finish in Group C and a spot in the last eight, regardless of Wednesday’s result against third-seeded Malaysia.

[6] United States bt [11] Canada 3-0:
Olivia Blatchford (USA) bt Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (23m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Samantha Cornett (CAN) 11-4, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9 (39m)
Natalie Grainger (USA) bt Nikki Todd (CAN) 11-6, 13-11, 10-12, 11-7 (34m)

Blatchford (L) lunges against Letourneau. (image: Steve Line/squashpics.com)
Blatchford (L) lunges against Letourneau. (image: Steve Line/squashpics.com)

As anticipated, Canada proved to be the United States’ most difficult test of the tournament thus far with two of the three matches extending to four games.

The opener between the No. 2’s—Olivia Blatchford and Danielle Letourneau—was the sole match to end in three games. Blatchford, who had won both of her previous matches against Guatemala and Mexico in three games, continued her fine form with another industrious performance against the Canadian who studies and plays squash at Cornell University. Blatchford needed twenty-three minutes to defeat Letourneau 11-8, 11-8, 11-5.

The No. 1 match between world No. 11 Amanda Sobhy and world No. 31 Samantha Cornett ensued. Cornett had never beaten Sobhy before their World Team encounter, including a five-game Granite Club quarterfinal in Toronto last March, in which Sobhy 11-9 in the fifth game.

Sobhy appeared to be in control early on despite vocal home support for the Canadian champion, winning the first game 11-4. Cornett responded in the second game, however, bolstered by chanting fans, the twenty-three-year-old took the second 11-7 to level the game score at 1-1.

A reinvigorated Sobhy returned to the court with precise shot-making and in addition to more unforced errors from Cornett, claimed the third game 11-4. Cornett didn’t capitulate in the fourth with both players trading points and staying within reach of each other, until at 7-6, Sobhy increased the advantage with the shot of the match–a forehand volley nick that Sobhy celebrated with a yell and clenched fist. Despite Cornett clawing back a few more points, Sobhy closed out the individual match 11-9, and the overall match 2-0. The crowd deservedly gave the two rising stars a standing ovation on their way off court.

(image: Steve Cubbins/squashsite.co.uk)
Amanda Sobhy pumps her fist in a crucial fourth game. (image: Steve Cubbins/squashsite.co.uk)

Former world No. 1 and Team USA player-coach Natalie Grainger stepped in to the No. 3 role against world No. 71 Nikki Todd in her first match of the day after Sabrina Sobhy played No. 3 against Mexico in the morning.

World Masters Champion displayed her evergreen world No. 1-caliber shot-making to win the first two games 11-6, 13-11. Grainger had to fight off five game ball in the third game to reach 10-10, at which point Todd pulled away to win the third 12-10. Grainger turned it back on in the fourth winning the game and match 11-7 making it 9-0 for Team USA so far in Ontario.

U.S. National Team Head Coach Paul Assaiante was more than pleased with both of the victories Tuesday on a pivotal day in Group C.

“It was a huge match tonight, ” Assaiante said. “It was particularly tough as we had played Mexico in the morning, while the Canadians had had a rest day—and it was our first time on the glass court. Adjusting to the conditions were tough, and they played up to it by hitting the ball high and into the lights. Olivia played really well in the first match. Amanda had to grit Sam down—she outran her in the end. And, in this setting, Natalie has been there before—and that made a big difference. To beat Canada here on the glass court was really special—I’m really happy for the girls. It’s great for U.S. Squash.”

Third-seeded Malaysia, whose side includes world No. 1 Nicol David and world No. 7 Low Wee Wern, are Team USA’s final test to decide the winner of Group C Wednesday afternoon at 2:30pm ET on the ASB Glass Court. The match will be streamed live.

Glass Court Live Stream: http://www.sportscanada.tv/squashcanada/index.php/watch-live/glass-court

All live streams: http://www.sportscanada.tv/squashcanada/

For full tournament coverage, visit wsfwomensteams.com.

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