The first U.S. Junior Squash Championships held since March 2019 produced a new generation of champions with eight first-time winners, while Marina Stefanoni ended her junior career with a record-equalling fourth junior national title Sunday, November 21, at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center and Merion Cricket Club in Philadelphia.
The first National Juniors in more than two years welcomed many first-time participants and returning players competing in a new age division. Of the ten champions, only two had previously won a national title–Marina Stefanoni and Christian Capella. Another theme of the tournament proved to be successful siblings reaching the podium.
One week before her nineteenth birthday, Marina Stefanoni cemented her status as one of the most decorated U.S. juniors of all time by defeating her younger sister, Lucie, 11-6, 14-12, 11-8, to win her fourth U19 title, equalling Lily Lorentzen’s previously unchallenged record of four U19 titles.
“We’re sisters so of course she wants to take me down,” Marina said. “She played really welI I thought. She knows what gets me so it’s tough playing her because I know she shoots and fights hard. It was nice to get a win even against her. I’m glad that nationals was a week before my birthday so I could play it one more time. I remember being nine years old starting squash and thinking ‘these 18 year olds are so old’ and now that’s me. It’s crazy to think I’m done. Junior squash has been one of the best things about my childhood. I had so much fun going to tournaments and seeing friends. If we did a tally I probably played the most junior squash events ever. Thanks to US Squash for everything.”
Seventeen-year-old Avi Agarwal from New Jersey, the BU19 top seed, earned his first national title in a dramatic five-game final against two seed Shaam Gambhir 13-11, 6-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5.
“It was an amazing and difficult final and a really tough tournament for me,” Agarwal said. “The level of competition is so good and I had to be on my toes right from the first round. I really enjoyed playing here, the new center is amazing. Really happy to win my first title here of all places. I haven’t been able to play this event in a really long time. Even in 2019 I couldn’t play because I had the flu. So it’s just really amazing to come back and finally get one. I remember always watching nationals finals every year, wishing I could be there. I used to hang pictures of this trophy on my wall and I’m just so happy I’m finally able to hold it.”
Riya Nivani won her first national title in an all-Californian GU17 final, defeating Ashna Tumuluri 11-4, 11-6, 11-2. New York’s BU17 two seed Hollis Robertson upset top seed Rishi Srivastava 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 to win his first national title. Robertson’s younger brothers Hart and Whit both reached the podium as the BU15 third place finisher and BU11 finalists, respectively. Srivastava’s younger bother, Neil, also reached the podium in the BU13 division.
Two pairs of siblings reached the top of the podium in different divisions. BU15 top seed Christian Capella joined Stefanoni as the only previous champion to win a title–his first in the U15–saving five match balls in the fourth game against two seed Alexander Dartnell. Carlton Capella joined his brother on top of the podium in the BU13 division–his first national title.
The Sze sisters from Wellesley, Massachussetts, both pulled off perfect tournaments without dropping a game on their way to their first national titles. Charlotte Sze defeated two seed Reghan McLaughlin in the GU13 final, and Vivienne Sze defeated two seed Keira Smith in the GU11 final.
Dixon Hill earned her first national title in the GU15 division and was joined by Samantha and Alexandra Jaffe on the podium. Hill overcame Alexandra in a tight five-game semifinal, before clinching the title against two seed Samantha in the final 11-6, 11-8, 11-9.