Episcopal Academy (PA) and Greenwich Academy (CT) once again proved too strong for the rest of the field as they won the Division 1 titles at the 2012 U.S. High School Team Squash Championships. For Episcopal, this is their fourth straight Boy’s championship while Greenwich has now taken home the Girl’s crown five straight years. After three full days of competition and over 2000 matches, then national champions were crowned in Connecticut. With 155 teams and 1240 players representing 16 states, the U.S. High School Championships was once again the largest squash tournament in the world.
Division 1: Episcopal Academy (PA)
Division 2: St. Pauls (NH)
Division 3: Hackley School (NY)
Division 4: Riverdale (NY)
Division 5: Conestoga B (PA)
Division 6: Westminster (GA)
Division 1: Greenwich Academy (CT)
Division 2: St. Pauls (NH)
Division 3: Middlesex (MA)
Division 4: Episcopal Academy B (PA)
Four for Episcopal
By Tyler Odell, Episcopal ’12
After our team won our fourth match to clinch the National High School Team Championship, I sat at the top of the bleachers watching the final match. I thought back over my five years playing in this competition. My first year on the team, Woody Hillyard was our captain, Penn Charter (Philadelphia) was the dominant team that year, and I played kids like David Hilton (Cornell), Parker Hurst (Middlebury) and Kevin Chen (Williams). We knew we couldn’t win that year, but we had a No. 1 player in Todd Harrity to look up to for inspiration.
In 2009, we played Brunswick over Thanksgiving weekend and lost. Todd and our coaches used that as incentive to push us harder—we won our league and went on to nationals. Of course as fate would have it, Brunswick and Episcopal met in the finals. I was on the glass court first, with the biggest crowd I had ever played in front of. I was playing another freshman, Cooper Briggs. Somehow I pulled out a win after getting killed in the first game. That set Episcopal off to a 6-1 victory. It was the greatest feeling in the world. We really wanted to win for Todd. He had achieved everything in squash, and we wanted him to finish off his high school career with the one national championship he hadn’t won.
In 2010, we won with Brandon McLaughlin and Trey Simpson as our captains. We played Chestnut Hill Academy in the finals, a team from our league and one that we always need to be ready for.
Last year, led by seniors Andrew McGuiness and Xander Greer, we played Taft in the finals. They have a great program with a few foreign players at the top of their ladder. I remember Taft School for their good sportsmanship and fierce competition.
So now it is my senior year and I, along with classmates John Heil and Billy Kacergis, felt the pressure to continue winning. Our team has an incredible junior class with Kevin Flannery, Devin McLaughlin, Patrick McCarthy and Jamie Ruggiero; a super sophomore in Andrew Stone; and three great freshmen in Clark Doyle, Will Ruggiero and Sean Hughes. We had a great season leading up to nationals, but we felt like we had to win the championship to finish the year. After some tough early competition, we reached the finals against Brunswick. I played first on the glass court against Cooper Briggs, just like freshman year. Cooper is one of the nicest guys I have ever played, and we had a long, tight match that I was lucky to win. Our team went on to clinch the championship 5-2—my last U.S. Squash event. I always put away the squash racquet for a lacrosse stick at this time of year. It is an incredible way to end the season and my high school squash career. The competition is always strong and sportsmanship after a match is always commendable. This is the tournament I look forward to every year for the competition, intense atmosphere, and the bonding that goes along with spending the weekend with my team. I hope next year another Episcopal kid will write a story about how it is to win five years in a row.
Deerfield Girls Squash at HS Nationals: Gaining momentum and building lifetime memories
By Hunter Sechrest Deerfield ’13
Flying down the center of the stadium steps to Yale’s Court No. 1 for the finals of High School Nationals was unquestionably the highlight of the team squash season. It was a very specific moment in time—a culmination of months of training, but more importantly, it was the moment at which we were most tightly bonded, forming a joint lifetime team memory among close friends.
After facing some very tough opponents, particularly the No. 3 seeded Baldwin in the semifinals, we were happy to be there, facing top-seeded Greenwich Academy on center court. It was the dream, unfolding as reality. We knew that GA, as always, would be a major challenge, particularly with four top college-recruited seniors in the starting lineup. While the February air was crisp outside Payne Whitney gym, it was even sharper inside. We had the support of ardent family members and the Deerfield boys team in one small corner of the bleachers on the right, and GA had the very enthusiastic and vocal support of three HS National GA girls teams, three Brunswick boys teams and their extended entourage overflowing the left. Furthermore, many of our squash friends, and parents from other teams, were hanging over the balcony showering their encouragement to both sides from above. On court, you could barely hear the score. And during game breaks, the entire crowd instantaneously shifted from Court 1 to a crammed Court 2 to follow the drama.
We were clearly the underdogs but had gained considerable skill and team momentum as compared to the 2010 HS Nationals when we lost in the quarters, and 2011 when we also faced-off against GA in the finals. Last year we were squarely beaten but were delighted to be there, our first HS National Finals. Since 10 beautiful courts were completed at Deerfield in 2007, we were building toward that goal. The Deerfield courts are a magical place where warm sunlight streams through enormous windows that overlook the verdant Pocumtuck Valley, and our classmates often come to avidly cheer us on. It was also the site of the New England Championships last year where Deerfield narrowly defeated GA, 4-3.
Last year, we lost three starting seniors including the leading, co-captain Dewey twins, Hallie and Charlotte, who now play at Princeton and Middlebury. But we gained three extraordinary underclassmen, Samantha Chai, Carey Danforth and Lindsey Dewey, all top-ranked juniors. And more importantly, we continue to develop as teammates and friends.
Deerfield squash is so much more than squash. Not only do we travel together each week for team matches, often singing on the bus, but we regularly make a point to attend tournaments together. Since there are no Saturday classes at Deerfield, and with the support of faculty, we generally attend several matches during class weeks and often play during school breaks. Coach Heise has been most supportive of our efforts, fostering a very close-knit team and helping us to build our competitive edge. Last New Year’s Eve weekend most of us played the Mass Open at Groton where the parents rented a house, and we had about as much fun as is possible on the night before a match. Who knew that eating 12 grapes at midnight, concurrent with the strike of the neighboring church bell à la the Spanish tradition, could be so riotous? Furthermore, many of us traveled to Europe last summer to play tournaments coached jointly by Nadeem Osman. We also train together after school activities and on weekends in the fall. Most importantly, we encourage each other to be our best selves both on the courts and off. Whether eating together at the Greer, or warming up with the latest rap music blaring on the courts or getting ready for the Saturday dance, we are each other’s greatest supporters.
So, just getting to the finals of HS Nationals again was a wonderful team accomplishment. The first two players went on and the crowd went wild. After the first two matches it was DA-1 and GA-1. Such excitement was in the air. Many of the matches were extremely tight, including highlights like DA’s Addie Fulton against Isabelle Dowling, which was 15-17 in the second game and 14-12 in the fourth with Isabelle winning. This compares to last year when Addie was beaten by Isabelle in three rather short games. Also, while GA’s Nina Scott kept Emily Jones at bay, the games were quite close. Similarly, DA Captain Tori Dewey was tight on Lindsey Scott’s heels with four long games. DA’s Carey Danforth won the first and went 10-12 in the third against Sarah Haig. I won in three against Skylar Murphy. While the outcome was ultimately 6-1 to Greenwich, many of the matches felt as if they could have gone either way. Though disappointed, we came in as a great team and left with our heads held jointly high.
Squash, in most ways, is an individual sport. And that is part of what makes it such a great athletic experience. When you are on court, it is just you, your opponent and a tiny black ball—nothing else. When you are at High School Nationals, it’s different; your team is out there on court with you. There is nothing else like it.
A Novice Team’s Journey to U.S. High School Nationals!
By Kamran Jamil, The Bishop’s School ’14
I still remember the day in the fall of 2011, when our Bishop’s Squash Team coach, Renato Paiva, recommended that we enter the 2012 U.S. High School National Championships. We could not believe it—we were just starting our 3rd season playing this sport and we were presented the opportunity to play in a National tournament as a team.
The Bishop’s Squash Club was started in November of 2009 as a school club-sport and, since then, we have practiced year-round and competed locally. Overall, the scarcity of squash courts in San Diego, coupled with the distance from both our schools and homes, has been a hurdle for members of the team and has sometimes dictated whether they could commit to squash as a year-round sport. This, however, did not stop the majority of our team from continuing to practice throughout the year and, with each sea- son, our team became incrementally stronger through both returning players and new teammates eager to contribute.
With the announcement of the U.S. High School National Tournament, our team was incredibly excited to join. Within a short span of time, we had already compiled a team of eight enthusiastic players to compete in Division VI for The Bishop’s School.
As the eagerly anticipated day of February 2nd came upon us, we packed our squash gear and clothes, and headed off to New Haven with a feeling of nervous excitement. Talking with my fellow teammates at the airport, we all realized a similar question running through our minds: how would we fare against other high school teams coming from different parts of the U.S.?
It took us an almost 8-hour plane flight and drive to travel nearly 3,000 miles from San Diego to Connecticut. The next day, our team experienced an adrenaline rush arriving outside the grand Payne Whitney Gym at Yale—the intense pressure to play to our best level was on. After adjusting to the new courts and setting, we began our matches. The first match was lost by a narrow 4-3; a loss that I remember feeling was my fault as my game was a defining moment in the outcome of the match. My teammates, however, were supportive and helpful of each other and myself and allowed us to continue past our loss, which had placed us in the consolation rounds. By the first match at the tournament, our sense of togetherness and bond had exponentially increased. It was at this point in our trip that we realized an important fact: winning or losing, we would play in this tournament at our best individual levels and have a fun experience together.
We continued playing in the consolations and played three other matches, and were successful in winning two of them.
Throughout the weekend, each player on our team put up their best games and behavior, and everyone had taken the losses with grace. Due to this amazing experience that was shared by both the players and coaches, our team was definitely more closely connected. We learned how to win and lose together, and the experiences we shared have become invaluable memories.
Our restrictive friendships among the team that we had coming into the tournament were soon dissolved and new relationships formed throughout the trip transcended the previous age and social barriers that separated us. Our views on winning as equal to happiness were long erased; we received the ranking of 10th yet still had a blast of fun on the courts, at meals, and during the free time we had.
Coming out of the tournament, our team was more than just a collection of friends. We were a family that shared a common passion—squash.
Kamran Jamil is the Co-Captain of The Bishop’s Squash Team and a sophomore at The Bishop’s School, located in La Jolla, California.