Juniors squash it up

Avery Cooper Junior Tournament brings out two dozen for annual tournament

James McCarthy | SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
January 26, 2016
Nathan Cluff gets set to return a backhand during action in the Avery Cooper Junior Squash Tournament at the Racquet Club on Saturday. - James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Nathan Cluff gets set to return a backhand during action in the Avery Cooper Junior Squash Tournament at the Racquet Club on Saturday. – James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Stephen Messier is on his way to Greenland to compete in badminton at the Arctic Winter Games.

But before making that trip, he showed why he’s also the best junior squash player in Yellowknife.

Messier captured top spot at the Avery Cooper Junior Squash Tournament at the Racquet Club on Saturday after defeating Case Heffernan in the division 1 final by a score of 3-0 in sets. Heffernan got to the final after beating his brother, Delaney, in the semifinal, 3-1.

But Ozzie Vallejos, the club’s head squash pro, said it wasn’t the blowout you would expect in a straight-sets win.

“Case gave Stephen all he could handle,” he said.

Messier won the first set, 11-5, but sets two and three could’ve gone either way but they went to Messier in the end by scores of 12-10 and 11-9.

The division 2 crown went to Ty Caines while Charlie Cameron-Sills captured division 3.

The tournament was set up in such a way where all 24 players started as one group. A first loss put a player in division 2 while a second loss saw players go to division 3. A third loss meant their tournament came to an end.

This was the second tournament of the season for the juniors and for the new players, it would seem they’ve gotten the hang of what squash is all about, according to Vallejos.

“There were a lot of brand new players in that first one and that was just a chance for them to get a feel of the rules,” he said. “We used a bigger, more bouncier ball in that first tournament to give them a feel of what it’s all about but they all knew the drill this past weekend and managed to keep the rallies going long.”

The tournament sprung a couple of surprises among the ranks, such as Colton Robertson, who ended up getting to the semifinal in division 2.

“He was seeded to be near the top of division 3 but he played well enough to end up in division 2,” said Vallejos.

It would also appear that those new juniors this season have taken to the sport so much that some have even decided to try their luck against the adults at times.

Vallejos said it shows that junior squash is growing in the city.

“There’s a lot of interaction and socializing among them,” he said. “They don’t shy away from anything. They just get right in there and the adults let them get in there. A lot of the former juniors who are now adults, like the Hincheys, are probably thinking they’ll get beaten by them just like they tried to beat the adults when they were younger.”