Greenwich Academy Squash Captures National Championship
By Paul Silverfarb
For the fourth consecutive year, the Greenwich Academy squash team can proudly say they are the best in the country.
With the victory against Agnes Irwin School, the Gators picked up its 12th national championship overall. And in five years at the helm of GA, head coach Luke Butterworth has hoisted a the 2019 HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championship trophy for all but one year.
“Winning never gets old,” Butterworth said. “Every year is a different challenge and we found that out in the final this year. Everybody is getting better, so we have to keep on top of our game. Last year we when we made it 11 with a great performance. This year they came out firing again We always have to up our performance and keep the training level high. We want to keep holding that title and the girls did a really good job staying hungry and keeping on top of the challenge.”
After crushing St. Ann’s 7-0 in the opening match of the national championships, the Gators came back to the Trinity College squash courts the next day and started by blitzing both Deerfield Academy and Episcopal Academy by the same 6-1 score.
The two wins on Saturday set Greenwich Academy up for a championship match battle with Agnes Irwin School. In a back-and-forth battle, it was Greenwich Academy that came away with the hard-fought 5-2 victory that gave the Gators its fourth consecutive national title.
“It means that we are obviously doing the right things on our home court,” said Butterworth. “There are certain levels of pressure on us each year. What has been wonderful is that we have been getting the most out of our players from day one and this championship shows how hungry and dedicated we have been since the beginning of the season. You have to listen and learn at all times and stay calm when things get tough. If you do all the right things, ultimately the titles will come.”
Lucy Stephenson and Lindsay Westerfield both were lights out for GA in the championship match, as both won their games 3-0. Stephenson, who played No. 3 squash, battled Agnes Irwin’s Rachel Mashek and came away with the 17-15, 11-7, 11-6 victory. Not to be outdone was Westerfield. At No. 7, she battled Catherine Costin gave Greenwich Academy its second win on the day with a 13-11, 11-4, 11-2 score. Her win also clinched the team’s 12th national championship, as it was GA’s fourth victory on the day against Agnes Irwin.
Two more Greenwich Academy squash athletes picked up wins for the team victories against Agnes Irwin School, as Binney Huffman and India Stephenson were each victorious in four sets. India Stephenson, playing at No. 5, took care of Anges Irwin’s Caroline Glaser by a score of 7-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-7. Huffman was also solid in her match. Her victory at No. 4 against Isabella Schneider (11-3, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6) helped set the table for GA to reclaim the national championship.
Also picking up a hard-fought victory was GA’s Haley Aube at No. 7. Against Anges Irwin’s Margaux Comai it took Hube five sets, but she came away with the win with the score of 8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6.
Although Greenwich Academy’s top two squash players were defeated, it was obvious that Butterworth was pleased with their performance.
Emma Carney, GA’s top squash player, took to the court against Katherine Glaser and feel in three sets 11-13, 10-12, 7-11. Claire Aube took her Agnes Irwin opponent to the limit at No. 2, but fell to Olivia Walsh 5-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 4-11.
With solid efforts up and down the roster, it was impossible for Butterworth to name just one or two standout athletes during the national championships.
“I think the Aube twins both started the match and it’s never easy to go out there first with all the pressure to get off to a good start. They did really well. The Stephenson twins played very solid and did great. Huffman and Carney always do well under pressure and always play great squash Emma Carney is our No. 1 this year and played great throughout the tournament. Binney was new to us this year and she ended up clinching the title. She was awesome. Everybody did some amazing things and it was a true team effort that gave us the championship.”
According to Butterworth, one of the main reasons that Greenwich Academy was able to bring the national championship to Greenwich was the combining of both the A and B teams during practices this season.
“We have a lot of strength in depth this year and bringing together both the A and B teams in practice, not only helped us achieve a sense of togetherness and being stronger together, but it also made our b team even stronger and they finished sixth in the nation,” the head coach said. “It’s the best achievement for our B team ever. The unity of our program was something that I have been working on for the past five years. It was such a special moment that, yes we won the national title for the 12th time and that was in part to the togetherness of the program and that everybody trains hard, trusts each other and works hard.”
The Greenwich Academy B team’s run through the national championship tournament started on the first night when they narrowly beat Lawrenceville School 4-3. A day later, GA took to the courts against Noble and Greenough School and won 5-2.
In that match No. 2 Penelope Oh (11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7), No. 3 Mary Duffy (11-9, 11-2, 9-11, 11-8), No. 4 Isabella Trauber (11-7, 11-7, 11-7), No. 5 Andrea Jemiolo (11-8, 11-9, 11-6) and No. 6 Charlotte Gillis (11-4, 5-11, 13-15, 11-4, 11-3) were all victorious.
However later in the day the Gators were defeated by Baldwin School 5-2 and on Sunday GA fell to Episcopal Academy 4-3.
Butterworth came to Greenwich Academy five years ago and in his first time competing in the national championship, the Gators were defeated. The coach said that what got the program back to the top so quickly was not building a program full of high-quality squash players, but also building the personality of his team.
“We have been working hard on the competitive level of the girls,” Butterworth said. “I wanted them to perform at a very high level and know how to perform when the target is on your back. Being able to teach them that as the coach at GA is something I am very proud of. I am proud of each and every one of the girls that represented the school this year and before that. To win the fourth title in a row and the 12th overall title for GA is a very proud moment for me as a coach.”