Stefanoni, Dussourd Claim Professional Squash Titles in Charlottetown
American wins first ever pro event on PEI.
Professional Squash was the headliner in Charlottetown for a 2nd straight year during the 2019 Aspin Cup tournament, one of the newest events on the PSA Challenge Tour calendar. The inaugural pro event in 2018 featured 24 male athletes, and this year, the host committee jumped at the opportunity to offer both a male and female division. 32 Athletes from 12 countries participated in the 4 day event at UPEI with $12,000 in prize money up for grabs. The Aspin Cup remains PEI’s longest running squash tournament, serving as an amateur event for Maritime athletes for decades prior to becoming a sanctioned PSA Challenge Tour event in 2018.
It was a thrilling best of five in the Women’s Final on Saturday afternoon between Marina Stefanoni (USA) and Hana Moataz (Egypt) which went the full distance. Moataz had a fantastic start with full court control jumping off to a 6-1 run to start and 9-3 to role on to a 11-5 win in the first. Moataz momentum carried over to kick off the 2nd and it looked for a while like she might jump out to a quick 2-0 lead, but the young Stefanoni bounced back and capitalized on a few errors to take the 2nd by score of 11-8, and then took full control of the 3rd to win, putting her one game away from what would be her 3rd PSA Title at just 16 years of age. The 4th needed overtime and had so many back-and-forth opportunities, but it would be a 17-15 win by Moataz to force a fifth and deciding game. In that deciding game, Stefanoni did not allow the disappointing missed opportunity in the 4th stop her momentum and came away with a close 11-9 win to be named the first female professional champion of the Aspin Cup Tournament. “She started off really strong” Stefanoni spoke of Moataz. “She was taking everything when I gave her an opportunity. So, I had to just try to not leave anything in the middle for her. Once I did that, the point was over next shot.”
Stefanoni and Moataz were determined opponents during the first ever Aspin Cup PSA Women’s Final on Saturday, but they will be teammates in the very near future at Harvard University where Moataz currently plays as a second year player and Stefanoni has committed to join following high school.
On the Men’s side, long time top ranked Canadian Shawn DeLierre gave a courageous effort to win a PSA event on home soil, but it wasn’t meant to be for the 37-year-old Montreal veteran as Auguste Dussourd from France put in an absolutely dominant performance to take the match 3-0 (11-3,11-5,11-7). This was Dussourd’s 2nd PSA Championship title win this month in Canada, fresh off winning the Nash Cup the previous week in London, Ontario. In a post-match interview, Dussourd claimed he was very nervous during the match, but to all spectators in attendance, it was a shocking declaration as he appeared confident and in complete control during the Championship Match on Saturday afternoon. Next up for this 23-year-old up and coming star is the World Championships, which he and Stefanoni have both qualified for later this year in Egypt as Wild Card entrants which was a major feature available to the winners of this event. “I have a tournament in the United States before that and I will also prepare myself as much as I can for (the) World Championships,” said Dussourd.
The calibre of this event was nothing short of phenomenal. Lester Jinks, Past President at Squash PEI and long-time enthusiast of the sport, was truly impressed with the athletes attending and their desire to help us grow this event. “Being able to see this calibre of men and women, you may be seeing history unfolding as you’re watching young players moving on up,” recognized Jinks. “An excellent example is our female champion (16 year old American Marina Stefanoni) who is destined to be a world top 10 contender in a few years time. It is great to be part of watching this history!”
The 2019 Aspin Cup also showcased three local players as Wild Card entries in this unique format. Mitch Chaisson, Nathan Phillips and Liam Jinks are all former Squash PEI recipients of the Male Athlete of the Year distinction. All three competed in the opening round of the male event on Wednesday. While coming up unsuccessful, they were all appreciative of the opportunity to experience professional squash on home soil and be apart of a fantastic event. “It’s a great opportunity for people to watch and to play and to really help grow the sport” Chaisson recognized prior to the event.
The Aspin Cup is scheduled to return to Charlottetown in fall 2020. Date and details to be announced in early 2020.