The largest delegation of Team USA juniors to ever compete in the British Junior Open returns stateside Thursday after a successful week in Sheffield, England.
Of the thirty-nine players that traveled across the pond in the boys’ and girls’ U13, U15, U17, and U19 divisions, twenty fulfilled or exceeded their seeding, and four placed in the top ten.
For the second year in a row, Darien, Connecticut’s Marina Stefanoni achieved the highest finish for Team USA, finishing as the runner up in the GU15 division. The thirteen-year-old pulled off one of the upsets of the tournament in the semifinals, knocking out the division’s top seed Jana Shiha.
Stefanoni’s younger sister, Lucie, was one of three Americans to reach the main draw quarterfinals in addition to her older sister and Sam Scherl in the BU17 division. The younger Stefanoni sister placed seventh in the GU13 division.
Scherl, the BU17 U.S. Junior Open champion, pushed the division’s top seed and eventual champion to four games in a close quarterfinal. The Pingry No. 1 then defeated two [3/4] seeds to place fifth.
Baltimore’s Casey Wong was the only unseeded player to reach the GU19 round of sixteen after upsetting a [9/16] in five games. After falling against the [3/4] and eventual finalist Nadine Shahin, Wong defeated two more [9/16] seeds to finish tenth in the division.
For a full list of results, reports, and pictures, visit the official tournament page.
The 2016 British Junior Open marked the second consecutive year that Team USA sent a delegation of players, an element of US Squash’s expanded junior national team development programs.
The coaching team included Alex Stait, Simba Muhwati, Annette Pilling, Luke Butterworth, Dan Roberts, Kumail Mehmood, Gareth Webber, and Mostafa Essam, and was led by US Squash Director of National Team Rich Wade.
“With regard to our junior programs, we at US squash have four goals: to provide young people the opportunity to improve, to ensure that life lessons are learned, that young people are taught to compete hard and yet do so maintaining the highest value of sportsmanship, fair play, and to behave professionally both on and off the court, and finally, to ensure that they develop a sense of independence and ownership over their journey, ” said Paul Assaiante, Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach.
“If these are the “bases” of the junior squash” Assaiante continued, “then it is safe to say that Rich Wade and his wonderful team hit a “grand slam” at the British Junior Open.”
The British Junior Open is considered the most prestigious junior world age-group championship other than the U19 World Junior Championships, and some formidable names have been crowned BJO Champion in the past. Past winners include include, Nick Matthew, Greg Gaultier, Karim Darwish, Ramy Ashour (all previous World No. 1’s) and current world No. 1 Mohamed Elshorbagy on the male side. On the women’s side, names such as Nicol David, Nour El Sherbini and Camille Serme are on the winners list.