By Scott Leighton
Following a full year of competition in selection tournaments and a final playoff held April 3-5, U.S. SQUASH named the members of the 2009 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash team that will compete at this summer’s World Junior Women’s Squash Championships in Chennai, India, July 29-August 9. Eight juniors will be making the trip to India: Olivia Blatchford (Wilton, CT), Julie Cerullo (Brooklyn, NY), Elizabeth Eyre (Haverford, PA), Natasha Kingshott (Greenwich, CT.), Haley Mendez (Brooklyn, NY), Yarden Odinak (Bellevue, WA), Alexis Saunders (Wilmington, DE), and Amanda Sobhy (Sea Cliff, NY).
The World Junior Women’s Squash Championships consist of two events: teams and individuals. Competing for the US in the team event, Aug. 3-9, will be Blatchford, Sobhy, Cerullo, and Odinak. Blatchford will be competing for the top position on the squad. Though just 16-years-old, Blatchford is already one of the most promising and successful women’s squash players in the country. She has had considerable success in both junior and adult tournaments this year, having won the Girls National Championship in early March and placing third in the Women’s National Championship the following weekend. Blatchford was also a member of the Women’s National Team that competed in Cairo last winter. Sobhy will be another member of the squad competing for the top spot in the team event. The 15 year old has been playing years above her age group over the past junior season while maintaining a healthy rivalry with Blatchford throughout the Junior Championship Series, in addition to trying her luck at the professional level in several WISPA tournaments. Cerullo and Odinak will be the elder statesmen of the squad this summer, as both 18-year-olds will be bringing their fiery competitive spirits to the courts of India. Cerullo and Odinak finished third and fourth, respectively, at the Junior Championships last March.
Traveling to India to compete in the individual championships, July 29-Aug 2, will be Eyre, Kingshott, Mendez and Saunders. These four girls earned their spots on the team through their results this past season in the Junior Championship Series and the Junior Women’s Team playoff held April 3-5 at the Fairmount Athletic Club. All four will be looking to gain experience at the individual level and will train with their squad mates in the team event.
Accompanying the team to India will be Head Coach, Jack Wyant, and Assistant Coach, Meredeth Quick. Coach Wyant believes that by improving the team’s overall fitness level and reinforcing basic tactical skills, the team will definitely improve on its finish two years ago at the 2007 World Junior Women’s Team Championships in Hong Kong. Blatchford, Cerullo, and Kingshott were all members of the 2007 squad and will be trying to use their experience in that event to their advantage here in 2009. Wyant also commented on how Blatchford and Sobhy should be well-accustomed to the international style of play after having played in several professional tournaments this summer. Although the team will be geographically dispersed throughout the country during the early summer months, Coach Wyant will be corresponding with each squad member individually and will be organizing a training session in Philadelphia. Coach Quick will be organizing a second training session in Brooklyn. The team will then meet together in mid-July to train together and review team goals before heading to India.
Overall, the 2009 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash team has the potential to be one of the most competitive teams in the history of U.S. SQUASH. With a solid core of experienced players combined with the youthful exuberance of several newcomers, the players and coaches alike are optimistic about the team’s chances in India. The U.S. SQUASH community wishes the team luck and will be eager to see how they perform on the world stage this July.