Dear T Family!
As the year draws to a close and we get ready for 2019, let’s pause to recall a few of the highlights from 2018.
In January, Coach Dee began an exciting opportunity at Chelsea Piers (a premiere squash club in Connecticut). Dee’s departure prompted Coach Neal to return to the coaching staff, which felt just like old times. In February, we hosted the T Winter Silver, as 75 players flooded in from around the Midwest for a spirited weekend of play. Our top highlights: Aanvi won the GU13 division; Alexander took 2ndin the BU 13, and Natalie took 2ndin the GU15. As usual, our out-of-town guests raved about The T.
March brought some big surprises. In the Finals of the Boys U15 Nationals, JP upset the reigning #1 ranked player in the US, who had been undefeated all season. This meant JP was a 3-time National Champ – the first time that’s ever happened in Cincinnati! That same weekend, T Founder Neal Tew was named US Olympic Committee’s Developmental Coach of the Year, in recognition of his 9-year adventure developing junior squash in Cincinnati. It was quite a month for The T.
In April, it was Aditi and Nora’s turn to make waves on the national stage. Aditi traveled to Baltimore for the US Silver Nationals, and in Round 2 promptly took out the #3 seed from New York,11-9 in the 5th, en route to capturing 4thplace in the Girls U15 division. Meanwhile, Nora traveled to Connecticut to the US Bronze Nationals and powered her way to the semifinals, where she narrowly fell to the #1 seed, 14-12 in the 5th, before regrouping to take 3rdplace in the Girls U15 division.
June brought the summer squash season and the return of our well-loved summer camps. These were a great tune-up for the Midwest Summer Gold we hosted in July. 223 players from all over the country – from California to Massachusetts and everywhere in between – all here in Cincinnati to play an event we co-hosted with the Cincinnati Country Club. The level of competition was extremely high; it took courage from our kids just to step on this stage. We had several milestones. Rohan battled to 10th place in the Boys U17 division; Aanvi took 7/8th place in the Girls U13 division, and JP stormed to take the Boys U15 title without dropping a game.
In August, we had more summer camps and the first visit of a man we will be coming to know better in years to come. Josh Saysell made the trip from England to interview for our job opening and to help with the last session of camp. A former training partner and fellow Coach in England with Coach Jon, Josh was a big hit with the kids and the atmosphere swirling around him and Coach Jon was electric. During his stay, Josh interviewed with the Board, garnered unanimous support, and was offered the job. But first, he had to apply for a Work Visa. That would turn into a 5-month saga. While that saga simmered, Coach Neal spearheaded our Annual Court Builder Campaign to raise money to meet our operating deficit. This year we raised a record $32,250 from companies and families proudly displayed on our tins and back walls. We were ready for the start of the season!
It would start with a bang. On September 14th, our biggest challenge of the year sped into town in the form of our 2nd Annual Junior Championship Tour Event. 288 of the best junior squash players from every corner of this country, and from several other countries, came to Cincinnati, to battle it out on Queen City soil for the first of five JCT events on the national calendar. A daunting task! To meet it, we renewed our successful partnership with US Squash, the Cincinnati Sports Club, and the Cincinnati Country Club, along with Marriott and Summit hotels, to wow and impress all of our guests with a magnificent display of Midwestern grace and hospitality. The tournament went off without a hitch. Five of our Spartans qualified (Siena, Maggie, Aanvi, Aditi, and JP) and each received an education in the rigors of national-level squash. Two highlights were the Boys U17 and Girls U19 Finals: contests of epic skill, fitness, finesse, courage, and grace between players from Egypt, Australia, and America. It was pro-level squash played by high schoolers, with all the youthfulness, innocence, and beauty of the amateur play.
Also in September, our first Spartan cracked the college squash ranks, as Victor joined the Men’s Squash Team at St. Louis University. College squash is a big dream for many of our players; Victor’s step was a major milestone.
On the first weekend in October, a handful of Spartans headed north to Cleveland for the Rock ‘n Roll Silver, where Caine wowed us all with his first-ever Silver Championship win in the Boys U13 division. His final match was a story of confidence, courage, speedy play, and determination as Caine went up 2-0, lost the 3rd and 4th, then stormed back like a champion to take the 5th 11-7. Later in October, a larger crew headed west to play in the Chicago Gold. The larger tournament, tougher competition. Kenzie, 8, debuted in her first junior squash tournament and won a game in one of her matches. Ellie was our breakthrough performer, posting back-to-back upset wins to reach the semis and finish 4th place in the GU11 division. Early in the tournament, Aditi staged an epic comeback from 0-2 down, saving 4 match balls against one of her chief rivals from St. Louis. Then Aanvi and Aditi rounded out the top finishes of the tournament, earning 3rd and 6th in their respective divisions (GU13 and GU15) with some impressive wins over highly ranked opponents.
Meantime, back on the home front, Rishi began an impressive job of rallying wide support for his high school squash team at Cincinnati Country Day. These efforts would bear fruit in time.
November was a busy month and November 11th was a particularly busy day. That morning, our T Spartan junior team narrowly defeated the CCC junior team in a hard-fought interclub contest. The final team score was 9-8, with the deciding match going to DeHaven 16-14 in the fifth! On the same day, our men’s team debuted in the Cincinnati Cup, a team match between the top 14 adult players from the CCC, the University Club, and The T. In a major upset, Team T won! Later that same day, The T hosted the Midwest Regional Training Squad, a 2-day training camp for the top 4 junior players in the Midwest in each of 6 divisions. Intense training and match play, with Coach Jon as one of the coaches. It was wonderful to see the camaraderie and quiet intensity of these sessions and so great to gather all the squash talent in the Midwest in one place. Especially when it’s at The T!
Still in November: on the following weekend, we sent a big crew of Spartans to Detroit for the Deroy Silver. Here DeHaven reaped the harvest of months of hard work, defeating the #2 seed in the semis, then the #1 seed in the finals of the Girls U13 division. This was her first-ever Silver Tournament title, a goal she had set for herself ten months back! In the Girls U15 division, Aanya played beautifully and earned 2nd place. On the same weekend, we sent Aanvi, Maggie, and JP to the Baltimore JCT tournament, to tangle with the top players in the nation. In that tournament, Aanvi firmly planted her flag on the national stage, as she lost her first two matches, before storming through her next three to capture the Plate 1 pool. Could this be the moment multi-colored knee socks become a national squash thing?
As November turned the corner to December, The T prepared to host our best event of the year: the Midwest Regional Championships. This is the annual tournament that crowns the Regional Champion in each of 10 divisions. Lots of highlights from this weekend: Allie won her first-ever tournament match; 25 Spartans competed; 13 notched top 10 finishes; JP and Rohan won their divisions (BU17 and BU19 respectively); Aanvi and Aditi took 2nd in the GU13 and GU15 divisions; Ellie took 3rd in the GU11 division, and we debuted our cool T Squash Academy photo banner. The weekend was a big hit!
On December 17th, Rohan got a big piece of news in his mailbox, when a letter arrived informing him that he had earned a spot on George Washington University’s Division 1 Men’s Squash Team. Woo hoo! Our first D1 Squash player – we hope the first of many! Just a few days later on the 20th, we got another great piece of news: Josh Saysell’s O1 Visa had been approved! He now has the green light to come to join our coaching staff. Josh will bring great energy, skill, and experience to The T’s coaching ranks! We can’t wait to see what he and Coach Jon stir up together in 2019. It promises to be a great year!
Happy New Year T Family! Let’s make it a great one together!