Greenwich Academy’s powerhouse varsity squash program has won the Division I title at the U.S. High School Team Squash Championships 13 times since the tournament’s inception in 2005, including a streak of five consecutive national titles.
Yet Greenwich Academy couldn’t compete for a sixth straight U.S. Team championship this winter since the tournament, featuring the premier squash teams in the nation, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all teams in most sports in the country, GA’s squash team’s season was significantly modified because of COVID-19 safety precautions. GA began its usual team practices in early November, with two players competing on five different courts, but late November, winter sports were put on pause in the state until Jan. 19. Prior to the pause, the Gators were intent on producing another highly successful season.
“We had our full team ready to go, everyone was signed up and we had a strong team ready for the season,” said GA coach Luke Butterworth, who has guided the school’s varsity A team to the Division I title at the national tournament five straight seasons. “There were a lot of question marks and unanswered questions at that point, but our team was ready for or anything – matches, practices or competitions.”
As it turned out, there weren’t many matches or competitions/tournaments, but the season did include some quality practice time for GA. From late November until the pause on winter sports in the state was lifted on Jan. 19, one player practiced on each court and took part in individual skill drills with a coach present. On Jan. 19, the varsity A and B squads were combined and regular team practices began.
“We began playing in-house matches, we worked on our conditioning on getting everyone’s game up to speed,” Butterworth said. “We wanted to create the togetherness and camaraderie our teams had in the past. The team was dedicated, they were eager to still compete for GA and be a part of the team. They showed a lot of desire during our practices.”
Greenwich Academy was able to have one match against Sacred Heart Greenwich and held a fun, end-of-season, team-wide Weakhand Championships, in which the players competed with their off hand. Senior co-captain Brecon Welch won the tourney.
“On that day, just looking at the girls and how they were hanging out together and the fun vibes they had, it gave me some inspiration for the future, a sense of normalcy,” Butterworth said.
Welch, who was part of the Gators’ squash program for four seasons, will continue her squash career at Harvard University next season. At the 2020 U.S. High School Team Squash Championships at Trinity College in Hartford, Welch won her match at the No. 3 position, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9 against her foe from St. Agnes Irwin School in the tournament’s championship match. GA defeated St. Agnes Irwin, 5-2, for its fifth Division I U.S. title in a row.
“Brecon played the national final with ice in her vains,” Butterworth said. “She had a breakout season last year as a junior and put forth an amazing performance in last year’s national final. She’s very good technically and as a captain, she led the team very well this year. Each year, Brecon showed a lot of improvement.”
Senior Lindsay Westerfield, who starred at the No. 5 spot for the Gators in 2020, is headed to Yale, where she will compete on the squash squad. Along with Welch, Westerfield, who joined the team as a sophomore, served as a captain.
“Lindsay plays a very attacking game,” Butterworth said. “She is a very fierce competitor and she had some excellent wins. She’s a talented player, who was a great asset to GA squash.”
Senior Annabelle MacTaggart, who would have played a key role on the varsity A squad this season, is headed to the University of Virginia, where she will play the sport. Senior Bella Trauber, an experienced competitor, also provided leadership and skill to the varsity A team. Among some of the returning players next season are Emma Trauber, a sophomore, Mary Duffy, a junior and Ella Schoonmaker, also a junior.
“Those players will provide us with some leadership and experience,” Butterworth said.
Butterworth noted that during the season, the players wore masks on the court, practiced social distancing when they were not on the court playing and underwent temperature checks. The courts and equipment were also sanitized each practice.
Greenwich Academy’s varsity squash team included: Welch, Westerfield, MacTaggart, Bella Trauber, Emma Trauber, Duffy, Emma Miller, Madeline Oh, Patricia Von Oiste, Valentina Cuccolo, Ying-Chu Chen, Ella Schoonmaker, Lauren Hawks, Melina Salame, Victoria Browder, Line Pepe, Sara Raghavan and Alison Sun.
“We have an abundance of talent coming through next year and we will be really strong,” Butterworth said. “I’m excited about the quality of depth and excited to contend for that sixth title in a row, as competition renews next season.”