U.S. Open pre-qualifiers kick off in Philadelphia

The lead up to the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships has kicked off with the men’s and women’s local pre-qualifiers currently underway.

U.S. Open pre-qualifiers will be held at clubs across Philadelphia through July and August to determine the local Philadelphia professionals who will compete in the U.S. Open qualifiers on October 4 and 5.

The Men’s draw contains 12 players led by first seed Jamie Macaulay, a Scottish pro player who now coaches at the Fairmount Athletic Club and who competed in last year’s U.S. Open after qualifying through the 2011 pre-qualifiers, and second seed Alex Stait who is a former English professional player and now a full-time squash coach at the Merion Cricket Club.

The draw also includes two American hopefuls.  Matthew Domenick graduated this spring from the University of Rochester where he played for the varsity college squash team and captained the team during his final season.  During his junior squash career he was the U.S. Boys U17 National Champion, and represented the United States at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Zurich, Switzerland.  Dent Wilkens is a graduate of Princeton University where he played on the varsity squash team for four years, and now works for the sport he loves as Program Director at U.S. SQUASH.

The Women’s Draw contains eight players. First seed Alex Clark is a Scottish native who now coaches at the Fairmount Athletic Club in Philadelphia and competed in the U.S. Open in 2011 through last year’s pre-qualifiers.  Second seed is Karen Kronemeyer, who was born in Australia but is a citizen of the Netherlands.  Kronemeyer competes on the professional women’s squash tour and reached a career high singles world ranking of #40 in March 2004.  She is now the varsity squash coach and teaching professional at the Baldwin school in Bryn Mawr, Philadelphia.

There are also four Americans competing in the women’s draw, including University of Pennsylvania rising Senior Stephanie Vogel, and former Bowdoin College star Niki Clement, now head varsity coach for the men’s and women’s squash teams at Haverford College. Amy Gross, a graduate of Yale University and the current Assistant Coach of the University of Pennsylvania varsity women’s team will also be playing.  During her junior squash career, Amy represented the United States at two Word Junior Team Championships, Antwerp, Belgium in 1999 and Penang, Malaysia in 2001.  During her college squash career at Yale, her team won 3 National Championships, and as an individual she was a First-Team All-American for each of her four years.

The Women’s draw also includes local junior phenomenon Olivia Fiechter, a Philadelphia native who made it through last year’s pre-qualifiers to the 2011 U.S. Open.  Olivia recently returned from Doha, Qatar where she represented the United States in the 2012 World Junior Championships, an event she also competed in last year.  Olivia is currently a high school student at the Germantown Friends School in her junior year and has played #1 on her varsity high school squash team since she was in eighth grade.

Olivia is the current Girls U17 National Champion, as well as the 2010 U.S. Junior Open U17 champion and has been training hard for months in preparation for the World Championships held earlier in July, and although she is taking some time to relax and recharge after the competition, she is looking forward to the pre-qualifiers.

“I am most excited to play people that I haven’t before. In junior tournaments, I often end up playing the same players over and over again so I am excited to face players with new styles and more experience than I have,” she says.

The U.S. Open local pre-qualifiers will wrap up by mid-August, with the top three male professionals and top female professional winning their places into the draw for the qualifiers of the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open.

Article by Todd Harrity.