Juniors battle at Early Bird tourney

The Yukon’s next generation of top squash players showed their increasing dominance at Squash Yukon’s Early Bird Tournament at Better Bodies Whitehorse on Saturday.

The Yukon’s next generation of top squash players showed their increasing dominance at Squash Yukon’s Early Bird Tournament at Better Bodies Whitehorse on Saturday.

Whitehorse juniors Mustafa Syed, 15, and Stephen Grundmanis, 17, made their way through the draw to meet in the final of the A division.

After giving up a two-game lead, top-seeded Syed held on to take the match 15-12, 15-12, 9-15, 14-16, 15-12.

“It’s my first two weeks back in squash,” said Syed. “I’m a little rusty.

“It was really tough. I’m going to have to start training more.”

The match took a change of course in the third set. Third seed Grundmanis, who knocked out second-seed Tyler Nesgaard in the semi, carried his momentum from the third game into the fourth, jumping out to a 10-4 lead.

“I kind of relaxed a bit when I was leading 2-0,” said Syed. “Stephen picked up his game while I just got cocky. He caught up 2-2 and I was like, ‘I have to go harder.’”

“I noticed he started sitting down and letting back a little bit, and I thought, ‘Here’s my chance now,’” said Grundmanis. “I kept pushing and in the last game he stepped it up and just took it.”

Syed is currently ranked 23rd in Canada for boys under 17. He finished last season ranked 19th in Canada for boys under 15.

“This is my first year in U17,” said Syed. “I’m going to try to get back into the top-20 again, which is going to be really hard because there’s some really tough players in that division.”

At the 2012 Canadian Junior Squash Championships last April in Toronto, Syed took two wins and two losses to reach the consolation round of 16 in under-15.

Both players represented the Yukon in squash at the 2011 Canada Winter Games. Grundmanis was the Yukon’s 2008 junior champion and is a five-time Better Bodies club champion.

Mustafa wasn’t the only Syed to win a division on Saturday.

Mustafa’s father, Shahid Syed, won the B division in a 20-18, 15-13, 15-8 win over Stephen Buckler.

Taylor Love knocked out top-seed Adam Humphrey en route to winning the C division. Love snagged the title in a 17-15, 15-12, 13-15, 15-8 win over Kealan Campbell, who knocked out the second-seed, Lara-Rae Grant, in the opening round.

Sixth-seed Megan Klassen topped the D division with a three-game win over fifth-seed Cathy MacDonald.

In the small three-person junior division, Nathan Abel dropped only one game in two matches to win. Jake Wykes placed second and Cole Wykes placed third.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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