Greenwich Academy, Sacred Heart squash teams primed for successful seasons
For the Greenwich Academy squash team, Thursday’s win against rival Sacred Heart Greenwich was the first of what it hopes, is many victories this season, the last of which would come in the national tournament finals.
The Gators have captured the Division I title at the U.S. High School Team Squash Championships the past two seasons and are intent on winning their third straight national championship and the storied program’s 12th overall.
“We are as strong as we have ever been due to our depth,” GA senior co-captain Emma MacTaggart said. “We won nationals two years in a row and our goal is to retain our national championship.”
While GA is seeking another championship season, Sacred Heart aims to continue to establish itself as one of the upper echelon teams in the region. Since the school opened its new athletic facility in the fall of 2015, which included a squash center, the program has risen.
“We have a strong team, it’s pretty much the same as last year with a couple of additions,” Tigers coach Celia Pashley said. “If we could finish top three in Division II at nationals this year that would be great. Hopefully in future years if we keep improving we make it to Division I.
Here’s a look at both teams as they get into their respective winter seasons.
MacTaggart, plays at the No. 2 position and she began her season by posting an 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 win against Sacred Heart.
“This is my first time playing at No. 2, so it’s definitely a change,” MacTaggart said. “I got a competitive match right from the start. It’s always fun to try a new position and I’m looking forward to the season.”
An interesting team dynamic is that GA possseses two pair of twins in India and Lucy Stephenson and Claire and Haley Aube, all of whom are juniors.
India Stephenson begins the season at the No. 1 spot for the Gators. She edged Sacred Heart’s Katie Keller in a tough match on Thursday, 10-12, 11-7, 11-4, 11-9.
Claire Aube serves as a co-captain, along with MacTaggart. She registered a 3-0 win at No. 5 in the season-opener, and like everyone on the squad, plays on the US Squash circuit throughout the year.
“Some of our toughest matches are the challenge matches between our own players,” Aube said. “We help each other improve a lot during the season. Nationals is always one of our favorite tournaments and it’s the toughest one. We look forward to hopefully, getting the championship again.”
Said GA coach Luke Butterworth: “I am really happy with the squad. We have talented girls, who are dedicated to their day-to-day training. Our goal is to win a national championship, so we have to keep motivated. To accomplish that, it’s going to take a lot of concentration and a lot of focus. We can’t get complacent.”
Sophomore Binney Huffman, a 3-0 winner in her season-opening match, plays at No. 3, while Haley Aube, who posted a 3-0 win in her first match of the season, brings skill and experience at the fourth spot.
Lucy Stephenson (No. 6), freshman Annabelle MacTaggart (Emma’s younger sister) and freshman Brecon Welch (No. 7) were also impressive in their sweeping their matches. Emma Carney, who missed the team’s season-opening match, will also play at one of the top spots for GA.
The Gators defeated The Baldwin School for the U.S. High School team title the past two seasons and have played Baldwin in the championship game three consecutive years.
“It’s going to be a great season,” Emma MacTaggart said. “We are really bonded and we know each other’s game really well because we play each other all the time.”
The Tigers are captained by seniors Victoria Huchro and Olivia Monahan. Huchro is the squad’s No. 2-seeded player.
“Our captains have done amazing work since the start of the season,” Pashley said. “They do as much as they can to take a lot of weight off my shoulders and keep the team pumped up and ready to go.”
Monahan also served as a captain for the Tigers’ field hockey team. Huchro will take her squash skills to Cornell University next season. Katie Keller, a sophomore, plays at the No. 1 spot. She also plays field hockey and lacrosse at Sacred Heart.
“Katie is a really strong athlete,” Pashley said. “She has good intuition on the court and she knows the game really well.”
Sophomore Erin O’Connor, sophomore Sophia Georgas, sophomore Cameron Calcano, freshman Mary O’Connor, junior Caroline Featherston, Grace Nemec and sophomore Georgia Ferguson are among the varsity’s starting players for Sacred Heart.
Prior to losing to Greenwich Academy, 7-0, Sacred Heart recorded 7-0 wins against Millbrook School, Hopkins School and Masters School and sports a record of 3-1.
Sacred Heart hosts Miss Porter’s School on Wednesday.