2012 CASA Junior Championships in Jamaica – Finals Day – New Champions Crowned
GU13 #1 Amanda Haywood (BAR) bt #2 Meagan Best (BAR) 3-0 (11-7, 11-8, 11-3)
Two Barbadian’s took the court for the first of 8 finals and undoubtedly the quietest as well, with non-partisan fans cheering only for outstanding rallies and words of encouragement.
Haywood, who plays like an energizer bunny, bouncing around the court was simply too fast and aggressive for her teammate Best, completing her first CASA championship without dropping a game.
BU13 #1 Dylan Pratt (BER) bt #2 Khamal Cumberbatch (BAR) 3-0 (11-9, 11-3, 11-8)
A David vs. Goliath affair as the #1 seed Pratt from Bermuda, hardly an imposing figure on the court, had 2 years and a couple of inches on Cumberbatch, who at 10 years old has a bright junior CASA future.
Dylan played a very strong tactical match and used his solid strokes to play good defense when pressured and when given time, took the middle of the court and attacked. Khamal, spurred on a by a boisterous Barbadian crowd never gave up and although overly aggressive at times represented himself and his country very well in the first of what should be many CASA finals.
GU15 #2 Alyssa Mullings (JAM) bt #1 Larissa Wiltshire (GUY) 3-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-8)
To the delight of the Jamaican home crowd, the first upset of the day unfolded in the GU15 finals as #2 Alyssa Mullings finished an impressive tournament over top seeded Larissa Wiltshire. Both girls are tall and athletic and play an aggressive style of play, fighting for space in the middle and attacking with kills and not afraid to go for the nick.
Mullings, only 13 and already close to 6 feet tall is one of the most talented Caribbean players I have seen and would give any of the top Canadian players a run for their money. Already a 3-time CASA champion, Alyssa Mullings is a player that if she keeps her squash up will be an international name in years to come.
BU15 #1 Julian Jervis (CAY) bt #2 Jason Doyle (OECS) 3-2 (13-11, 10-12, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9)
Two boys that I hadn’t seen much of all weekend put on a very exciting display of athleticism in this 5 setter. At 1-1, I thought #2 Doyle looked in much better shape physically and a local onlooker told me that he was “just warming up” – however, Jervis from the Cayman came out in the 3rd game guns blazing and was rewarded for some risky shot selections, as Doyle seemed to be the one who had lost a step.
An error filled middle of the third game saw Jervis stay ahead and close this critical game out. But as most of these CASA matches have proven, the tide can change very quickly as the crowd and some questionable calls by the 3-person referee system propelled Doyle to the deciding 5th game.
After chats with coaches Glen Stark and Joe Kneipp, the boys came back and played a patient and careful 5th, with each player trading points until Doyle went up to a 9-7 lead with victory in sight. Again, the crowd surged, this time in favor of Jervis and he buckled down and played his best squash in the last few points to take the 5th 11-9 and the CASA title.
GU17 #1 Charlotte Knaggs (TRI) bt #2 Victoria Arjoon (GUY) 3-0 (11-8, 11-5, 11-2)
In a much anticipated match-up, Knaggs was seeded #1 but many believed the Guyanese start, Arjoon to be the favorite after having not dropped a junior CASA match in for years, coming up from the U15 category.
However, Knaggs, who spent the season playing tournaments in Canada and abroad, was out to prove that her title in 2011 was no fluke. And prove she did, as Victoria appeared very nervous, making uncharacteristic errors and unable to establish any rhythm against Knaggs who sensed that the day would be hers with a very strong performance to repeat as champion.
BU17 #3/4 Nyron Joseph (GUY) bt #1 D’Vario Thompson (BER) 3-2 (9-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-8)
The event continued to impress all weekend with a deep and talented field being whittled down to Joseph and Thompson, who gave the fans one last 5 setter to sink their teeth into. Thompson, who plays for Wycliffe College in England started very positively and used his classic racquet skills to move across the mixing volley drives, kills and drops and even slotting a few dead nicks for good measure in the first two games.
However, the Guyanese player once again got stronger as the match wore on and came back from his second straight 2-game deficit by becoming a backboard for everything Thompson could throw at him – most rallies ending in a frustrated tin by the Bermudian after 3 or 4 uncanny gets by Joseph.
By this point, fatigue and mental torment had set in for the #1 seed as the Guyanese crowd carried Nyron to his second title in the row in just over 60 minutes of entertaining squash.
GU19 #1 Mary Fung-A-Fat (GUY) bt #2 Ashleigh De Groot (GUY) 3-0 (11-7, 11-5, 11-3)
A similar case of the nerves seen all weekend seemed to affect #2 Ashleigh Groot in her final vs. teammate and favorite #1 Mary Fung-A-Fat, as the two Guyanese normally go the distance in matches previous. Like Knaggs, in the U17 final, Fung-A-Fat took quick advantage of a tight De Groot and never looked back, played her trademark efficient, business like squash with incredible focus.
She did not change her expression throughout the match, until finally breaking down into tears of joy after another well-constructed championship point gave her the U19 crown.
BU19 #2 Noah Browne (BER) bt #1 Kevin Hannaway (6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-3)
By the time the boys U19’s took the stage, we were already an hour behind schedule and the gallery was overflowing both physically and emotionally. This was a highly anticipated match between the racquet skills and shot making of Browne versus the athleticism and determination of Hannaway. The first game saw Hannaway jump out to a 6-0 lead before Browne new what had hit him, pouncing on every loose return and ill-advised drop shot like a puma, hitting quick cross court and straight kills to stun the 6 foot 2 Bermudian.
Browne started to steady the ship and a few racquet errors by Hannaway extended the game, but still gave the St. Vincent player a convincing 11-6 win and the momentum going forward. However, a new Browne came out in the second game, one who was much more diligent in trying to contain the speed of Hannaway by hitting deeper and tighter length, allowing his trademark volley drop and hold and flick from the front to become effective, as Hannaway was now being fully stretched from corner to corner. Some nervous errors from Browne brought him from 9-6 up to 9-9 before he played two of his best rallies of the match, putting his opponent on a string and finishing with two reflex volley kills off Hannaway cross courts from the front.
The Bermudian, who will attend Amherst College in the fall continued to play the big points well in the 3rd game as he maintained a 1-2 point lead all the way up to the business end of the game in which he once again played his best points. By this time, Hannaway had done the lion share of the work and it was starting to show as his legs were taken out of him by some great holds from the front of the court by Browne. Hannaway, who was a wonderful sportsman and class act throughout the match, could not mount a last minute charge, giving the Bermudian the biggest win of his career and the 2012 BU19 CASA title.