by Tom Utescher
It seems strange that while last year’s national high school team championships sponsored by U.S. Squash were called off due to winter weather worries, the 2014 edition of the championship event proceeded as scheduled during this historically snowy season.
Still, that’s what happened on the second weekend of February, as the boys’ and girls’ teams from Germantown Friends, Penn Charter, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy joined in the competition at various venues in the Philadelphia area.
The primary site for all the racquet ruckus was the Fairmount Racquet Club in King of Prussia, where the SCH seven turned in the best result of any boys team from this area, narrowly missing a trip to the Division I finals and coming in third overall.
The Germantown Friends boys placed 12th in the 16-team bracket for Division I. In the championship match, an Avon Old Farms squad that has successfully recruited both domestic and international players posted its second 4-3 victory of the season over another Connecticut power, Brunswick School.
The Penn Charter boys, a bit down over the last few years, competed in Division III, placing fourth.
All three girls’ squads from Northwest Philly played in Division I. The best outcome belonged to the GFS Tigers, with their ninth-place position in the final reckoning. SCH placed 11th, while Charter came in 15th.
As boys competition got underway in Division I, SCH took down Potomac School in a 7-0 sweep, but Germantown Friends fell, 2-5, to the Avon Old Farms team. The two wins for the Tigers came from sophomore number five Felipe Sanz and freshman number six Garrett Melby.
GFS won its first consolation bracket match, 4-3, over Westminster School (Conn.), picking up victories from Sanz, freshman number three Jack Lentz, junior number five Anand Butler, and sophomore number seven Silas Shah.
With sophomore number one Calvin McCafferty forced to withdraw during his match due to injury, GFS lost its next encounter, bowing to Noble and Greenough from Suburban Boston, 7-0. The Tigers finished 12th overall with a 1-6 outcome in their final performance. Here, Sanz pulled out a 3-2 win to save his squad from a sweep at the hands of Hotchkiss School (Conn.).
In a relatively tough quarterfinal draw early on Saturday afternoon, SCH encountered the top team in the Boston metropolitan area, Belmont Hill. The Massachusetts team picked up one early win, but the Blue Devils saw success from senior number five Mason Blake, junior number three Matt Giegerich, and freshman number seven Zane Jeka, who all won 3-0.
A fourth 3-0 victory, this from freshman number six Chris Dalglish, clinched the team victory for SCH, and the final tally ended up 5-2 after senior Phil Kelly won in straight games at number four.
In the Devils’ semifinal tilt with powerful Brunswick, Blake cruised 3-0 at number five, while elsewhere in the middle of the line-up, Matt Giegerich and Kelly ground-out 3-2 victories. However, the Bruins carried the day. 4-3. They prevailed at the top two and bottom two rungs on the ladder, with one 3-2 match in the mix.
The Blue Devils closed out their tournament run by winning the third/fourth match over familiar Inter-Ac League foe Haverford School. SCH went out with a 6-1 bang, although wins at five and six took some doing as both Blake and Dalglish went to a fifth game. In fact, Zeka was the lone 3-0 winner, rolling through at number seven.
SCH senior number one Sean Kenny captured his opening game at 11-2, then his Haverford opponent defaulted due to injury. Matt Giegerich and his brother Brian, the Blue Devils’ senior number two, each prevailed 3-1.
In Division III, the Penn Charter boys opened with a 4-3 verdict over Episcopal High School from Alexandria, Va. The Quakers claimed the top two matches thanks to juniors Owen Davis and Aidan Porges, while at six and seven victories came from eighth-grader Marco Rodriguez and sophomore Tate Miller. The same four players performed successfully as PC topped Phillips Exeter in the quarterfinals, 4-3.
Baltimore’s Friends School conquered Charter, 5-2 in the semifinal round, where fortune smiled on the Quakers’ Davis and Miller. In the third/fourth playoff PC was edged by New Canaan High School (Conn.), 4-3. Making it close for the Quakers were Rodriguez, Miller, and senior number five Matt Franz.
The three local girls teams in the tournament all exited the main draw of Division I in the opening round. Despite wins in the top three spots for senior Olivia Fiechter and juniors Grayson Melby and Annie Tyson, Germantown Friends was shaded by the Greenwich Academy “B” team, 4-3.
Springside Chestnut Hill was knocked out in another close match, dropping a 4-3 decision to Taft School. The individual victories came from senior number two Caroline Canning, sophomore number four Samira Baird, and freshman number six Joia McGivern.
Playing the eventual national champions, the Greenwich “A” team, Penn Charter succumbed, 1-6, with its lone win coming from senior number two Margaux Losty.
Junior Izzy Hirshberg had played the number one spot in that match, but Losty was the Quakers’ number one the following morning. She and seventh-grader Elizabeth Ross (playing the number two spot) were the two individual victors for PC in a 2-5 loss to St. Paul’s School (N.H.).
This came in the first round of play in the consolation bracket, where GFS won handily over Miss Porter’s School, 6-1, and SCH got by Potomac School, 4-3.
Germantown’s Feichter, a fixture in the U.S. junior national team program, would win all four of her tournament matches in three straight games. Against Miss Porter’s, she took down a highly-regarded rival from France, Melissa Alves. Melby and Tyson also won for the Tigers, as did junior number four Hannah Safford, freshman number six Caroline Caraballo, and sophomore number seven Isabel Schmidt.
In their win over Potomac, the SCH Blue Devils chalked up victories for Baird, McGivern, senior number five Courtney Hamilton, and freshman number seven Grace Torsella.
Germantown Friends would go on to win its last two matches, starting with a 5-2 decision over St. Paul’s powered by Fiechter, Melby, Tyson, Safford, and senior number five Claire Schmidt.
The Tigers then claimed ninth place overall by winning the consolation bracket final over Boston’s Winsor School, 4-3. Fiechter and Tyson won at 3-0, Melby at 3-1, and Schmidt swung the balance in Germantown’s favor by prevailing in a five-game affair.
Winsor had knocked off SCH in the consolation semifinals, 6-1, with only a 3-2 outcome for McGivern saving the Blue Devils from a sweep. The Devils bounced back by topping St. Paul’s, 5-2, in the match for 11th and 12th place. Baird, Hamilton, and Torsella wrapped up their contests in straight games, while McGivern won 3-1 and freshman number three Taylor Ferry outlasted her opponent, 3-2.
With its result in the first bout in the consolation bracket, PC slipped down into the Classic Plate draw, where places 13-16 would be determined. In their first match here, the Quakers saw success from Losty, Ross and sophomore number seven Jenni Bown, but were edged out, 3-4, by Miss Porter’s. PC finished up by putting away Potomac, 6-1, with wins coming from Hirshberg, Losty, Ross, seniors Danielle Reisley (number four) and Leigh Steinberg (number five), and number six Gwen Davis, an eighth-grader.