US Retains Border Battle Title

Team USA taking in the sights at Niagra Falls.
Team USA taking in the sights at Niagra Falls.

Juniors from the US and Ontario arrived at the White Oaks Resort and Spa in Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, August 11, 2011, excited for an intense weekend of training and competitive play. Over the past nine years, juniors from the US and Ontario have been competing against one another in the “Battle of the Border,” with the US returning this year as the defending champions. The U.S. Junior National Team was supported by a staff of world-class coaches led by Chris Smith, Fernanda Rocha, Kelsey Engman, Jacques Swanepoel, Gilly Lane, Pam Saunders, and U.S. SQUASH Program Director, Dan Heinrich.

Friday morning brought the two teams together for the first time and players were excited to meet their opponents from each country. Although teams were preparing for fierce competition throughout the weekend, players kept the atmosphere light and fun by joining a nearby Zumba class to show off their dance moves and get ready for the day.

Teams warmed up with some endurance and team building games followed by Reverse Ladder Challenge Matches. The teams had set their lineups for each age group for positions 1-4, and in Reverse Ladder Challenge Matches, the No. 1’s played the No. 2’s and the No. 3’s played the No. 4’s (and vice versa). The United States bested Ontario, winning decisively in this exercise, with an overall score of 16-8—giving the US confidence for the weekend ahead.

On Friday afternoon, each team had their own training session. It provided a unique opportunity for the geographically diverse U.S. Junior National Team to come together and train with world class coaches. Each age group worked on different skills to help better prepare for the weekend.

The weather couldn’t have been better as the US and Ontario teams got together at a beautiful park area on the coast of Lake Ontario for the Friday evening dinner. Players were able to take a break from squash to enjoy the sun while playing games and talking with their newly found international friends. However, once the food was served, those friendships were pushed aside as all 48 competitors swooped in on the spaghetti and meatball dinner like hawks. Team photos were taken after dinner and players retired for the night to get ready for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday morning started on a more serious note as players got themselves ready to take on their opponents in Round Robin matches. Players played four matches each throughout the day and got valuable experience seeing different players’ game styles. Every player’s fitness was pushed to the limit, but once all of their matches were over, teams left White Oaks to explore the local area including a visit to beautiful Niagara Falls! After a few haunted houses, video games, and go-kart rides, both teams went back to their respective lodgings in eager anticipation for the competition on Sunday.

The “Battle of the Border” was decided on Sunday with the United States winning by a 16-8 margin over three hours of intense competition. Perhaps the most exciting match of the weekend came from Madeleine Chai (GU13) who faced off against Ontario’s Rhea Dhar. Down 11-6, 11-6 after two games, and seemingly out of the match, Chai fought back with a freight train’s momentum to win the last three games—6, 3, 3.

Emily Jones (GU17) also had a tight match against Ontario’s No. 2, Alyssa Mehta, who recently represented Canada in the Women’s World Juniors in Boston. A fast and physical match, Jones held on in a nail biter—9, (8), 8, (6), 6.

The rest of the US Team was dominant. The Boys U13, U15 and U17 and the Girls U13 and U17 each won their group matches decisively, 3-1. Both teams exhibited impressive sportsmanship and developed excellent camaraderie throughout the competition. This annual competition is a highlight for U.S. SQUASH and the U.S. Junior National Team and this year was no different. Proudly and defiantly, the US Team brought back the Battle of the Border trophy for the second year in a row, and if their performance this year is any indication of the U.S. Junior National Team’s future, they plan on hoarding that trophy for years to come.