By Chris McClintick
It was a banner year for Andrew Douglas and Marina Stefanoni, as both players repeated as national junior champions.
While the 2016 National Juniors served as Douglas’ coming out party, the eighteen-year-old New Yorker returned to Harvard’s Murr Center as an established favorite, not only having defeated the defending world junior champion at the British Junior Open in January, but also turning in a surprise run to the S.L. Green final in March. Nonetheless, he endured a grueling Saturday at the National Juniors, with a four-game quarterfinal against Patrick McElroy and a five-game semifinal against Cole Becker. On Sunday, a composed Douglas dispatched Sam Scherl in a three-game final. After going as a favorite to the World Juniors in New Zealand this summer, is heading to Penn this fall.
Scherl, a teammate of Douglas’ at the World Juniors last summer, was a first-time BU19 finalist. He ends his junior career this summer at the Maccabiah Games and will attend Harvard in the fall.
After making history as the youngest-ever U19 champion in 2016, fourteen-year-old Marina Stefanoni played a clinical tournament at Harvard. She didn’t drop a game on her way to the title and only in the final against Grace Doyle did she lose more than thirteen points in a match. A few inches taller than last year, the Darien, CT-native continues to develop as Team USA’s top prospect and will lead a youthful U.S. team at the World Juniors this summer.
With the younger Stefanoni sister, Lucie, retaining her U13 title, the sisters became the first siblings in US Squash history to both win national junior titles in two straight years. Grace Doyle and semifinalists Elle Ruggiero and Laila Sedky cemented their place on the U.S. team heading to New Zealand with their finishes at the National Juniors.
Both U17 finals had the world juniors developmental spot on the line—Team USA allots one slot for a U17 player who will be age eligible to compete in the next biennial world juniors team competition two years from now. In the longest final of the day, Tiber Worth came back from 2-0 down against fellow New Yorker Daelum Mawji, to win the BU17 title in five games and earn the men’s World Juniors developmental spot. (The Heights Casino and its coach Laurent Elriani boasted two champions in Douglas and Worth.) In the GU17 final, Germantown Cricket Club’s Elisabeth Ross defeated California’s surprise finalist Cassandra Ong in four games to secure the women’s spot.
The West Coast’s emerging class of juniors made waves at the tournament, particularly throughout the younger age divisions. They boasted more players in finals than any other region with seven, including three champions, and there were two all-California finals in the BU13 and GU15 divisions.