For the second consecutive Nationals Juniors at Harvard University, Andrew Douglas and Marina Stefanoni emerged from the weekend as the U19 champions.
At fourteen years old, Stefanoni becomes the youngest junior champion in U.S. history to win two consecutive national titles. The Darien, Connecticut native didn’t drop a game all tournament, which culminated in a 12-10, 11-2, 11-7 final victory against two seed Grace Doyle, who marked her first national juniors U19 final appearance.
“It feels good to win, it was a tough season,” Stefanoni said. “Grace and I played every JCT this season and it’s always a good match. It was three love today, but the points were close and she’s a tough fighter.”
Stefanoni and Doyle represented Team USA together at the 2016 World Juniors.
“She’s also a very good friend,” Stefanoni said. “We’re friends off the court, but try to put that aside and play our best on court, see who wins, and be friends again afterwards.”
One week after a breakthrough run to the final of the S.L. Green U.S. Mens Championship final, Douglas ended his domestic junior career with his second National Juniors title.
A physically-demanding two weeks included a five-game semifinal against California’s Cole Becker Saturday night. In the final against world juniors teammate Sam Scherl, Douglas regained his form to win 11-8, 11-6, 11-7.
“Yesterday I honestly could have lost,” Douglas said. “Cole was playing really well and I somehow managed to sneak that out. I wanted to win so badly. I knew that I had it in me to push a little more, but there wasn’t much left. Finally in the final I played my best squash of the weekend.”
“This weekend was really hard for me,” Douglas said. “Even though I had a great run last weekend, losing in a final is never easy. I had to come back here and try to push myself. It wasn’t easy.”
While Douglas’s U.S. junior career is over, the New York City native will represent Team USA for one final world junior individuals this summer in New Zealand. Douglas and Scherl were a part of the U.S. junior men’s team that achieved a record third-place finish in 2016.
“This summer I just want to be as prepared as I can be and do the best I can,” Douglas said. “There’s just one more push in my junior career and I want to end it on a high note.”
Douglas, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, attributed his junior success to his Heights Casino coach Laurent Elriani.
“I’d like to thank my coach, Laurent,” Douglas said. “I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves as one of the best coaches in the country. He has two nationals champions this weekend. He’s the most dedicated coach I’ve met and gives everything for his kids.”
View all results on the 2017 National Juniors tournament page.