The Justi and Patterson Cups will return to Greenwich, Connecticut, with brother-sister schools Greenwich Academy and Brunswick for a third consecutive year after both schools cemented their status as the winningest programs in high school team squash history on finals day of the HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships Sunday, February 23, at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
Greenwich Academy edged Philadelphia’s Agnes Irwin in the Patterson Cup finals for a third year in a row, earning the Gators a fifth-consecutive national title and unprecedented thirteenth overall since the competition’s inaugural year in 2005. Brunswick head coach Jim Stephens ended his thirty-five-year coaching career with the Bruins by defeating four-time champions Episcopal Academy to become the first five-time Justi Cup champions since the tournament’s founding in 2004.
The 2020 High School Nationals–one of the largest squash tournaments in the world–attracted more than 1600 players competing across thirteen divisions including boys’ division 1-7 and girls’ division 1-6. 195 school programs represented seventeen states. Matches were held across five venues in the greater Hartford area including Trinity College, Wesleyan University, Avon Old Farms, Loomis Chaffee and Westminster.
Both Greenwich Academy and Agnes Irwin endured challenging semifinals against local rivals on their way to Sunday’s Patterson Cup final. GA’s bottom five provided the wins to defeat four seeds Sacred Heart Greenwich 5-2, while the Owls produced three five-game wins to upset two seeds and Inter AC rivals Baldwin 4-3.
In Sunday’s final, GA took a 2-0 lead in the first slate of matches courtesy of No. 3 Brecon Welch and No. 4 Emma Trauber. Agnes Irwin responded with two dramatic victories as Catherine Costin fought off a match ball in the fourth game to win in five games at the No. 5 position, shortly followed by Olivia Walsh leveling the score at 2-all with a five-gamer over Binney Huffman in the No. 2 position. Megan Meyerson put the Gators within one win of the title in the No. 3 position in three games, setting up No. 1 Emma Carney with an opportunity to clinch. Carney, a graduating senior, came back from 6-9 down in the fourth against Katherine Glaser to seal a perfect title record in her four years at GA.
The Gators have now won thirteen out of fifteen Patterson Cups since the girls’ competition was founded in 2005, only falling short in 2015 against Baldwin and in 2007 against Episcopal Academy.
“Five titles in a row feels fantastic,” said Luke Butterworth, Greenwich Academy Head Coach. “It’s an amazing achievement for the girls and school community. For a quite inexperienced team today to overcome a lot of pressure and pull through some incredibly difficult matches is truly unbelievable. We spoke last night about remaining composed and every player went on court today believing they could win. For Emma to clinch it with that big win was really special for her as a senior. The match could have gone either way, but the girls stayed calm and their determination made the difference so credit to them. I’m incredibly proud and this was a special win.”
Brunswick and Episcopal Academy, the only four-time Justi Cup champions, followed on court in the ensuing boys’ division one final. Episcopal entered the final on the heels of a dramatic 4-3 upset over local rivals Haverford on Saturday night, making their first Justi Cup final appearance since their four-year title run in 2009-2012. EA proved to be no match for a historic Brunswick side, however, who became the first team to win the Justi Cup without dropping an individual match all tournament. The Bruins entered the tournament as the top seeds heavy favorites, and clinically fulfilled their high expectations. For the second year in a row, Dana Santry provided the clinching fourth victory of the day that saw the entire Brunswick side only concede three games in the final.
The 2020 title triumph heralds the end of Stephen’s coaching era at Brunswick, which flourished with five titles over the past six seasons—positioning Brunswick on top of the Justi Cup winners list.
“I’m very proud of the boys, we’re pretty lucky and fortunate to achieve that,” Stephens said. “We’ve had a lot of great finals against Philadelphia schools so it’s a pretty great accomplishment. It’s been a deep rivalry over the past decade between Brunswick, Episcopal Academy and Haverford. The kids have worked hard this year. I don’t think we’ll ever have a team as good as this. Not to win every match 7-0, which is pretty amazing as there are really strong players out there.”
In 2014, Stephens was named the USOPC National Coach of the Year.
“We’ve got it going on in Greenwich, there’s something in the water,” Stephens said. “There’s a lot of interest and kids playing—we have seventy-five players in our program at Brunswick. We had twenty-two boys on the varsity team and they’re all competing in JCT’s and junior gold tournaments. The game has gotten stronger since this tournament started in 2004 and the level was nothing near what it is now.”
At seventy-five years old, Stephens will remain in the game, while assistant coach Ryan Abraham takes over the Brunswick Head Coach position.
“We played with wood racquets and the hardball with I first started,” Stephens said. “Now we’re getting good athletes playing the game. In the beginning, we would take the kids that got cut from the hockey, basketball or wrestling teams and they started playing squash in ninth grade. Now in Greenwich, they’re starting when they’re five or six years old. And of course all of the courts that have been built—it’s amazing. When I was the pro at the Field Club we had four courts total in town, that was it and kids didn’t play squash, but that started to change with the shift to softball. It’s been satisfying for me to see the kids having a game that they can enjoy for a lifetime and go off to good colleges and develop a lot of the character values that are important. Not so much how good they are at squash, but the life lessons that they learn from squash. The kids that I’ve been able to work with have become good friends over a long period of time. I’m not dropping out completely, I’m working with my grandsons AJ and Spencer, who are five, and my granddaughter Skylar, who is eight. So we’ll see how they do.”