Fifteen-year-old Marina Stefanoni earned her third consecutive Girls’ U19 junior national title, while Boys’ U19 eight seed Daelum Mawji upset the field to claim his maiden title at the 2018 U.S. Junior Squash Championships Sunday at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Two years ago at Harvard, Stefanoni became the youngest player in history at thirteen years old to win a U19 title, which she followed up with a second at the Murr Squash Center last year without dropping a game.
This weekend, top-seeded Stefanoni endured a semifinal scare, coming back from 2-1 down against four seed Elisabeth Ross to advance in five games. The Darien, Connecticut-native was back to her clinical ways on Sunday against first-time finalist and three seed Laila Sedky, claiming the title 11-6, 11-2, 11-4.
“I had a tough match yesterday with Elisabeth,” Stefanoni said.” It’s never been easy these past three years, so it feels good to win another title. Today I wasn’t going to give Laila anything and go all out from the beginning. I wasn’t going to take any chances.”
Stefanoni, a high school freshman, is now one junior national title away from matching Lily Lorentzen’s record of four consecutive titles from 2002-2005. Stefanoni is just the fifth player in history to win three consecutive girls’ U19 national titles, joining the likes of Lorentzen, Sabrina Sobhy, Louisa Hall and Alicia McConnell.
“The pressure’s on,” Stefanoni said. “I’m excited for next year. We’ll see how it goes.”
An unpredictable Boys’ U19 draw produced a rematch of the 2017 U17 final between two seed Tiber Worth, and Mawji, who entered the tournament as the eight seed. Mawji upset top seed Ayush Menon in the quarterfinals in four games, and sealed his place in the final against Peter Miller. In the bottom half of the draw, Worth proved to be the only top four seed to reach the semifinals where he topped Thomas Rosini in five games.
On Sunday, Mawji avenged his 2017 U17 final loss against Worth, edging his fellow New York City native 11-8, 11-13, 11-5, 11-5.
“He’s a great player,” Mawji said of Worth. “We’ve been playing each other almost every single tournament over the past two years, so I knew how fit and strong he was. I just had to stick to my game plan and get the job done.”
The 2018 U19 title is Mawji’s first national title in any age group. At seventeen years old, Mawji will have an opportunity to defend his title in 2019.
“I’m still kind of in shock,” Mawji said. “This is my first one and I’m just so excited, and so happy to get through that final. It was a really tough weekend, and I’m just so excited that my family and my coach came out to support me. That’s the best part about it.”