Following a one-season hiatus, competitive squash is back in a major way at the high school level, with rivals Greenwich Academy and Sacred Heart Greenwich once again, having highly skilled, successful teams.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020-21 season, but the matches have been played this winter and both the Gators and Tigers are making their mark. Like seasons past, the Greenwich-based teams are heading into the championship portion of the season on a winning note and Monday, the squads met for the season’s first title – the FAA Tournament championship.
Greenwich Academy entered the tournament having won the league title each year since 2002 and it continued its championship tradition. Top-seeded Greenwich Academy posted a 5-2 win over second-seeded host Sacred Heart, claiming yet another FAA Tournament title.
“The girls have waited for competition for a long time, especially as a team,” GA coach Luke Butterworth said. “It’s special to be back together. We have a relatively young team. We have a fresh batch of talent and we’re really excited to work together each day. It’s a good group with good camaraderie amongst themselves and it’s fun.”
GA won at the No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 positions, while Sacred Heart scored victories at Nos. 2 and 6.
“It was good, the best we have ever done against GA,” Sacred Heart Greenwich coach Celia Pashley said. “The matches that we lost we were really competitive in. It’s the second time we played each other this year.”
It may not be the last time the Gators and Tigers meet. Players from each team will compete against each other in this weekend’s New England Championships, which includes seven brackets, consisting of athletes from the No. 1-7 player spots. The last weekend of February, GA and Sacred Heart will each compete in the U.S. High School National Team Squash Championships in Philadelphia, Pa.
Greenwich Academy has captured the U.S. High School National Team Squash Championships the past five times the tournament has been held and has garnered 13 national titles overall.
In the No. 1 match between Sacred Heart sophomore Caroline Fouts and GA junior Emma Trauber, Fouts posted a 3-0 win, taking the intense match, 11-3, 11-5, 11-4.
“Today’s match was a good match,” said Fouts, who has played at the No. 1 spot for the Tigers since she was in eighth grade. “Emma played really well, we’re always rivals, we play frequently with school or without school. The energy and environment really helped me.”
Fouts appreciates her team’s depth.
“This year it’s been nice for the team to take that pressure off of me, because I tend to put pressure on myself,” Fouts said. “So,with great captains and a really older and more experienced team it’s been nice to have more fun, because the pressure hasn’t been intense.”
“We are lucky to have her she is able to pull off some tough matches and we can rely on her to be there for the team,” Pashley said of Fouts. “She’s a really good team player, and individual player.”
Trauber, who is in her third season on the team, is one of GA’s captains.
“Our team is doing great, we have New Englands this weekend and Nationals in three weeks,” Trauber said. “Hopefully, we can continue to do well and support our team. Our team is so close knit. We all support each other and it’s so much fun to come to practice each day and compete.”
“Emma encourages and inspires her teammates to improve,” Butterworth said.
At No. 2, GA freshman Charlotte Pastel was a 3-0 winner against Sabrina Schwarz. Pastel won the match by game scores of 11-7, 11-9, 11-4. Pastel is in her first season on Greenwich Academy’s Varsity A squad and she enjoys the team’s competitive nature.
“I really like it, I’ve gotten close with a lot of girls on the team and it is a great environment with everyone, we’re all good friends,” Pastel said. “It has a perfect amount of competitiveness to it as well. We have challenges matches and some of the best matches I get is against my teammates.”
In the No. 3 match, captain Ella Schoonmaker was victorious for Greenwich Academy, registering a 3-0 win over Madeline Schwarz (11-4, 11-4, 11-9).
“She’s a great thinker of the game and helps her teammates improve by asking questions on how to improve,” Butterworth said of Schoonmaker.
The No. 4 matchup saw Greenwich Academy’s Grace Fazzinga take a 3-0 decision against Sacred Heart’s Sophia Morales (11-3, 12-10, 11-5). Madeline Oh (No. 5) posted a 3-0 win for GA against Gabrielle El-Masry (11-3, 12-10, 11-5).
At No. 6, Annie O’Connor gave the Tigers a victory, topping Anniston Mahaffy, 3-0 (12-10, 11-2, 11-3). One of Sacred Heart’s captains, O’Connor has enjoyed seeing the squad improve significantly each season.
“I’ve played since freshman year and I had two of my older sisters play for this program as well,” O’Connor said. “Our program has made extreme progress, we have a lot of players that play outside of school and train outside of school, so we’re lucky to have a team that’s very strong and practices all year round. We also have a lot of different levels of players and that’s what we’re lucky to have here and we’re excited to continue to grow.”
Having mostly a normal season after seeing very little competition last year due to COVID-19 restrictions has been a significant bonus to the athletes.
“My senior season is going amazing, we’re so lucky we get to play matches,” O’Connor said. “Because of COVID restrictions, last year we didn’t get to have the opportunity to compete, so we’re grateful to have the opportunity to play. We also get to compete in High School Nationals this year. That’s going to be my last time competing with the team, so I’m looking forward to performing well then and competing with my team one last time.”
Piper Giovine, a GA junior, has excelled in her first season on the team. She played at No. 7 Monday, where she won her match against Sacred Heart’s Daphne Fallon, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 11-2.
“It’s been super fun, this is a really great community and it’s fun to go to all these places and play all these matches,” Giovine said. “It’s been a great experience. My old school didn’t have a squash team, so it’s such a great community. There’s always really good competition, everyone is amazing and it’s such amazing practice for U.S. Squash tournaments too.”
Greenwich Academy’s record on the season stands at 4-0, while Sacred Heart has a 6-2 mark, with both of its losses coming against GA.
“We’ve been very competitive in-house, doing lots of challenge matches and keeping ourselves on our toes,” Butterworth said. “When we go to Nationals, we are going to be underdogs I believe. I think it’s going to be Baldwin, but we’re ready for the challenge, we know what to expect when we get there. So we just have to try our best and go for it.”
Said Trauber: “We want to win another national title and if we continue to play well, which we have been doing all season, we have a good shot.”