Thursday, July 9, 2009

US team named

Following a full year of competition in selection tournaments and a final playoff, U.S. SQUASH named the members of the 2009 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash team that will compete at this summer’s World Junior Women’s Squash Championships in Chennai, India.

Eight juniors will be making the trip to India: Olivia Blatchford (Wilton, CT), Julie Cerullo (Brooklyn, NY), Elizabeth Eyre (Haverford, PA), Natasha Kingshott (Greenwich, CT.), Haley Mendez (Brooklyn, NY), Yarden Odinak (Bellevue, WA), Alexis Saunders (Wilmington, DE), and Amanda Sobhy (Sea Cliff, NY).

Competing for the U.S. in the team event will be Blatchford, Sobhy, Cerullo, and Odinak.

Olivia Blatchford will be competing for the top position on the squad. Although she is only 16 years old, Olivia is already one of the most promising and successful women’s squash players in the country. She has had considerable success in both junior and adult tournaments this year- having won the Girls National Championship in early March and placing in third in the Women’s National Championship the following weekend. Olivia was also a member of the Women’s National Team that competed in Cairo this past winter.

Amanda Sobhy will be another member of the squad competing for a top spot in the team event. The 16-year-old (her birthday was during the recent ATCO Junior Open in Cairo) has been playing years above her age over the past junior season- maintaining a healthy rivalry with Blatchford throughout the Junior Championship Tour, in addition to trying her luck at the professional level in several WISPA tournaments.

Julie Cerullo and Yarden Odinak will be the elder statesman of the squad this summer, as both 18-year-old will be bringing their fiery competitive spirits to the courts of India. Cerullo and Odinak finished third and fourth, respectively, at the Junior Championships last March.

Elizabeth Eyre, Natasha Kingshott, Haley Mendez, and Alexis Saunders will also be traveling to India to compete in the Individual event taking place from July 29- August 2. These four girls earned their spot on the team through their results this past season in the Junior Championship Tour and the Junior Women’s Team playoff from April 3-5 at the Fairmount Athletic Club. All four will be looking to gain experience at the individual level and will train with their squad mates in the team event.

Accompanying the team to India will be Head Coach Jack Wyant and Assistant Coach Meredith Quick.

Coach Wyant believes that by improving the team’s overall fitness and reinforcing basic tactical skills the team will definitely improve on its finish two years ago at the 2007 World Junior Women’s Team Championships in Hong Kong. Blatchford, Cerullo, and Kingshott were all members of the 2007 squad and will be trying to use their experience in that event to their advantage here in 2009.

Wyant also commented on how Olivia and Amanda should be well accustomed to the international style of play after the two played in several professional tournaments this summer. Although the team will be geographically dispersed throughout the country during the early summer months, Coach Wyant will be corresponding with each squad member individually and will be organizing a training session in Philadelphia.

Coach Quick will be organizing a second training session in Brooklyn. The team will then meet together in mid-July before the competition begins to train together and review team goals.

Overall, the 2009 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash team has the potential to be one of the most competitive teams in the history of US SQUASH. With a solid core of experienced players combined with the youthful exuberance of several newcomers, the players and coaches alike seem to be optimistic about the team’s chances in India.

Scott Leighton

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