Greenwich Academy Squash Wins Its 11th National Title
By Paul Silverfarb
For head coach Luke Butterworth and the Greenwich Academy squash team, winning the HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships last weekend for the 11th time as a program was just as special as all the previous times.
That excitement hasn’t dulled for Butterworth. And that’s because of the quality of girls that comprise the Gators’ squash roster, both on and off the court.
“As you can imagine, it’s such an exciting tournament,” Butterworth said. “The national championship is the main event for the school program. Obviously, with the history of winning the title so many times and having to back that up by going to tournaments as favorites, with all the pressure, is something to be really excited about. The girls take real pride in representing Greenwich Academy at the national stage, and this year they really showed what it means to play for GA and play together as a team.”
In the championship match against Agnes Irwin School, it was the Gators that came away with the convincing 6-1 victory to take home the Patterson Cup.
Leading the way at No. 1 was India Stephenson, who upended Agnes Irwin’s Lily Zelov 11-9, 7-11, 15-13, 11-9. Not to be outdone was Binney Huffman, at No. 3, as she finished off Rachel Mashek in a hard-fought, five-set thriller 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 11-4.
Competing at No. 4 was Claire Aube, as the GA standout blanked Isabella Schneider 11-7, 11-8, 11-4. Keeping the good times rolling was Lucy Stephenson, at No. 5, who took care of Agnes Irwin’s Margaux Comai 8-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-6.
At No. 6 was Greenwich Academy’s Emma Carney, who took little time in beating Caroline Glaser, winning the match 11-4, 11-9, 11-7. The Gators’ other win was at No. 7, as Haley Aube blanked Grace Flaherty, posting scores of 11-3, 12-10, 11-0.
Rounding out the championship was Emma MacTaggart, at No. 2. Although she didn’t post a victory in the finals, she pushed her Agnes Irwin opponent to the brink. Agnes Irwin’s Olivia Walsh was able to grab the 11-5, 6-11, 11-8, 13-11 victory from MacTaggart.
Butterworth admitted that each year there is a target on GA’s back. After all, since the school has won 11 national championships, it’s obvious that they are always in the mix as one of the teams to beat.
With all that said, the GA head coach couldn’t be more impressed with how the girls on his team put that pressure aside and focused on the task at hand.
“There is always immense pressure that we are expected to win,” Butterworth said. “When everybody looks at the draw and sees how it’s going to work out, everybody just expects Greenwich Academy to be the winning team. With all that being said, it’s a mindset that needs to be right before you step into the tournament because no one is just going to hand us a win. You have to work hard in every match and for every point. You can’t take anything for granted. I think that’s what we focus on as a team. It’s the hard work that helps us win the title.”
In order to get to the championship match against Agnes Irwin, Greenwich Academy had to face a challenging Lawrenceville team. However, it was the Gators that dominated from start to finish, blanking Lawrenceville 7-0 to advance to the finals.
In the semis, it was Huffman (11-4, 11-9, 11-3), Claire Aube (11-7, 11-5, 11-2), Lucy Stephenson (11-5, 11-9, 12-10), Carney (11-1, 11-1, 11-1) and Haley Aube (11-1, 11-3, 11-1) that came away with the straight-set victories.
At No. 1, India Stephenson had her work cut out for her against Lawrenceville’s Abigail Dichter, but was able to pull out the five-set victory and won 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 7-11, 11-7. Needing four sets to come away with the victory was MacTaggart, at No. 7, as she finished off Lawrenceville’s Mia Mahfood 11-2, 11-6, 5-11, 11-4.
“I can’t really single out any specific girl on the team because they all really put in the right amount of effort and commitment to take the wins,” Butterworth said. “The GA team, as a whole, is very special. We have players on the team that are going to go on to have very successful college careers playing squash. The girls are so special in every single way, from day-to-day studies and day-to-day commitments to squash. Across the board, they are playing so well and are great girls.”
The Gators started the tournament by beating Pingry School 7-0 and kept the good times rolling in the second round against Noble and Greenough School 6-1.
“I think we really got the mindset right throughout the tournament,” Butterworth said. “The mindset was to represent the school, their families and themselves in the best possible way. The dedication on the court and knowing that they have to be ambitious and have to want to win the title was great. From the very start of this past weekend, we hit every right note. We were ambitious, excited and we played some really great squash.”
While the GA A squad came home with the school’s 11th national championship, Butterworth was pleased with the way his B team fared.
After a first-round loss to Andover in the main draw of the Patterson Cup, the Gators’ B team darted through the consolation tournament and upended Choate Rosemary Hall 6-1 to capture the consolation finals.
In that matchup against Choate, No. 1 squash player Brecon Welch took care of Mia Krishnamurthy 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-2. Penelope Oh, at No. 2, finished off Choate’s Nicolina Tessitore 9-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 12-10. Not to be outdone was Kathryn Wright, at No. 4, as she beat Samantha Stevenson 11-9, 8-11, 3-11, 11-8, 11-8.
At No. 5 was Charlotte Gillis, as she finished off Hope Worcester 11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 6-11, 12-10. GA’s Andrea Jemiolo was victorious against Choate’s Supriya Chang, at No. 6, coming away with the 11-5, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9 victory. Keeping things on the winning side of the scoreboard was Charlotte Forshner, at No. 7, as she beat Madison Sakheim in straight sets, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9.
Greenwich Academy’s Isabella Trauber ran into some tough competition at No. 3, falling to Choate’s Keeley Osborn.
“The level of squash that we have at GA, not only in the national championship-winning team but across the board on the team, is just amazing,” Butterworth said. “The B team ended ninth in the nation this season, and we were very close to making the top eight. It just shows the dedication of, not only the A team, but everyone in the program. We have a program at GA that has 34 girls, and I couldn’t be prouder of every one of them. Their commitment and dedication to squash is great.”
While seeing his squash team dominate the 2018 HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships, it was just as sweet for Butterworth to see the boys’ draw.
On the boys’ side, Brunswick School helped make the Town of Greenwich the place to be when it comes to high school squash.
“I got to see my girls, who work hard every day and I also got to see the Brunswick team bring their title back to Greenwich,” Butterworth said. “We did that same thing two years ago. It was special then, and it’s just as special now. It’s great for the Greenwich community because a lot of people dedicate a lot of time to squash. It’s a credit to all the families involved in Greenwich to bring the success to the schools.”
After the Greenwich Academy celebrated with the championship banner, it was the Bruins who did the same later in the day, as they took care of Haverford 5-2 in the championship match to, once again, claim top boys’ team in the country.
“It really means so much to me,” said Butterworth, who knows a plethora of athletes on the Bruins. “I am heavily involved with that program as well because I have taught so many of those boys when they were younger. On Sunday, it was so special because we worked so hard to win our title, and then all the girls and myself stayed on to watch the boys. I was there with some of the students who I taught since they were eight-years-old, and for them to win their first national title in high school was a really special and rewarding feeling for me as a coach.”
For the Gators, they might have won the national championships, but the season isn’t finished quite yet. Starting on Feb. 23, Greenwich Academy will compete for the New England Prep School Athletic Conference championships.
“The season isn’t over, despite having such a great win at the national champions,” Butterworth said. “We are really looking forward to the New England championships, and we will head there with a goal of winning that as well. We are going to enjoy the national championship now, but after the team celebration we have, we will focus on our next goal, which is to win New Englands.”