Brunswick School has experienced the excitement of capturing the Division I title at the U.S. High School Team Squash Championships four of the past five seasons, yet if it claims the winner’s trophy on Sunday, it would mark an extra significant accomplishment.
Capturing the Justi Cup, which goes to the championship squad, would be the perfect way for the Bruins to celebrate longtime coach Jim Stephens’ final season at the helm.Stephens, the architect of the storied program, is retiring as a teacher and coach at Brunswick, following the school year. He took over the squash coaching reigns in 1985 and has since guided the Bruins to four national titles, 17 New England Championships and eight straight appearances in the finals of the national tournament.
Brunswick begins action in the U.S. High School Team Squash Championships at Trinity College on Friday. The top-seeded Bruins face Potomac on Friday at 9:30 a.m. The quarterfinal and semifinal-round matches are slated for Saturday, with the championship match taking place on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Trinity College.
“The whole season is pretty much in honor of Mr. Stephens,” said Brunswick senior Nick Spizzirri, who plays at the No. 1 spot. “To get that one more national championship in his last year as coach would be an awesome accomplishment for the whole team, especially the seniors. We have been playing for him the last four years and going out with Mr. Stephens with a title matters to all of us.”
Brunswick plays Potomac in Friday’s first round at 9:30 a.m., then if it’s victorious, faces the winner of Avon Old Farms and Saint Ann’s (N.Y.) in Saturday’s 9:45 a.m. quarterfinals. The semifinals are slated for 1:45 p.m. on Saturday.
The Bruins registered a 6-1 win over Haverford School from Pennsylvania in 2019 and also topped Haverford for the Division I national title in 2018.
“It would be special for the team and for me if we win three in a row,” Stephens said. “For the seniors on this team, they won their sophomore year, their junior year and if they win this year, it will be very special.”
During his tenure, Stephens has coached 74 Brunswick competitors that have won New England individual championships, eight All-American players and a wealth of athletes who have continued the sport at the collegiate level.
“It’s been a lot of fun to build this program,” Stephens said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done. We had no courts when we first started, we had to go down to Sportsplex in Stamford, which had only two courts and we had seven kids in total. I was told it wasn’t a real sport when I got here, it didn’t provide enough exercise. I was told we couldn’t play against boarding schools, that there was no way we could compete against them. I’m very proud that we conquered a lot of those hurdles.”
Indeed, the Bruins have established themselves as the gold standard in squash at the high school level — a program that’s provided a pipeline of talent to colleges across the nation.
“That’s been happening for a long time, they go to top schools,” Stephens said of his players. “We have good players, but also good students. These kids who play squash are all outstanding students.”
Spizzirri, who has starred on the Bruins for four seasons, will take his squash talent to the University of Pennsylvania next season. In the midst of another highly successful season, Spizzirri was a 3-1 winner in his match at the No. 1 spot at the 2019 U.S. High School Championships for the Bruins.
At the No. 2 position is senior Dana Santry, who is also headed to Penn. Santry notched a 3-2 win against his Haverford foe in last year’s national title match. Santry and Spizzirri grew up playing squash together at The Round Hill Club in Greenwich, then were on a team together at Greenwich Country Day School, before arriving at Brunswick as freshmen.
“Dana introduced me to squash and we been playing squash ever since,” Spizzirri said. “I am excited to play on the same team with him for another for years at Penn. He pushes me in practice to be the best I can be.”
Senior Brian Leonard, who plays at the No. 3 spot, swept his Haverford opponent, 3-0, in the 2019 U.S. Division I title match. He’s heading to Yale University, where he’ll play the sport.
Junior Mac Aube (No. 4) also a 3-0 winner in th national finals last season, has turned in another strong season, as has senior Pierce Henderson (No. 5). Henderson will play at Williams College next season.
Sophomore Patrick Keller (No. 6), junior Coulter Mackesy, (No. 7), sophomore Tad Carney (No. 8) and sophomore David Beeson (No. 9) have also flourished all season.
“The kids are all invested in the sport,” Stephens said. “They play year round, the practice had and they have good work ethic. That’s why Brunswick has been so good in recent years. This team is a special team, it’s one of the best we’ve ever had.”
For Spizzirri, his four years at Brunswick have gone by quickly.
“Playing squash has made it go by fast,” Spizzirri said. “Playing for Mr. Stephens has been great. You sort of take it for granted, now when you look back on the past, see you the influence he had on us and the motivation he has provided throughout the years. We hope we can get the national championship for him.”