New England Juniors
Win Sectional Titles
James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | July 1, 2019
MIDDLETOWN, CT- New England’s brightest rising stars braved the elements once again in an attempt to claim New England’s top junior prize, as rain and extreme heat made their way through this year’s six-day Junior Sectionals event. The tournament was held for the first time at Wesleyan University from June 21-26, with consolation sites at Quinnipiac University and rain sites at the Tennis and Fitness Center of Rocky Hill, the Newington Tennis Center and Magic Lincer Tennis Academy.
“Our juniors here in New England are incredible. From their determination and will to win to their ability to adapt and adjust seamlessly to any court surface or weather condition, they all played like champions,” said USTA New England Player Development Manager, Shawna Fors.
This year’s event saw many familiar faces but an almost entirely new slate of champions. ADVERTISEMENT The 18s division featured a pair of 16-year-olds from Connecticut, while the 16s had a two-time champ and a winner who missed almost an entire year due to injury.
Get to know this year’s Sectional Champions:
Boys’ 18s- Andrew Ilie, Trumbull, CT
No. 3 seeded Andy Ilie defeated Jack Truwit, 5-7, 7-5, 5-3 in a 3-hour-55-minute classic to claim his first Sectionals title. Both players had been part of three-hour matches in previous rounds, and Truwit, a four-hour plus marathon in the quarterfinals, but it didn’t stop either player from putting it all on the line in the final.
“This is an amazing feeling. We’re both two warriors out there, and we just gave it our all. We both wanted to win very badly, and the heat didn’t make it easy for us, but we fought through it the best we could,” Ilie said.
Down a set and locked at 5-5 in the second, Ilie knew if the title was coming home to Trumbull, it was now or never. He broke Truwit and then held serve to claim the second set and shift the momentum in his favor. Like he did against Walker Oberg in the quarterfinals, in which he dropped the first set and bounced back with a fighting spirit, Ilie took the emotional third set 6-3 and embraced Truwit at the net with a hug and a smile.
“The match obviously could’ve gone either way and it was a close third set, but I just went out there and tried to play every point and not think about what happened in the past. I didn’t want to think about what first set, every point was a new point, and just try my best,” Ilie said.
The 16-year-old Ilie finished fifth in the 16s division in 2017, fell in the semifinals of the 18s last year, and was able to get over the hump this year to take home the 18s title.
“I was close the last few years, and every year I’ve improved, so to get the title this year is great,” he said. “I’ve been a little more aggressive this year and hitting balls bigger, and over the past year, I’ve worked on really improving all shots in my game and becoming more consistent.”
Ilie plans to compete this summer at the USTA Boys’ National Championships in Kalamazoo, along with National Clay Courts and a variety of men’s open tournaments.
Girls’ 18s- Mary Stoiana, Southbury, CT
Mary Stoiana has been competing at Junior Sectionals since she was nine years old. This year, the 16-year-old had arguably her least favorable draw to date, matching up against the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds in the tournament. Stoiana, the No. 5 seed, defeated them all however on her way to her first Sectionals title.
“I’ve been playing this tournament for many years in a row, and it adds up after a while. I have the experience and energy level now and know what it takes. Each year I learn a little bit more and grow, and this year I was able to go all the way,” Stoiana said.
Stoiana knocked out defending 16s champion, No. 2 Iris Gallo, in the quarterfinals, and then upended No. 4 seeded Alexandra Dewire in the semis. In the final, she squared off against top-seeded Jennifer Riester, who she defeated, 6-4, 6-2.
“This tournament was tough, and I’ve played all these players before and we’ve had tough matches. I knew I had to keep my head focused, start every point the same and be ready and on top of the rallies,” Stoiana said. “I’ve been working very hard this past winter and spring, and I had the belief I’ve gotten to a new level.”
With the win, Stoiana feels she has an extra boost of confidence for National Clay Courts and a junior ITF this summer.
Boys’ 16s- Alex Visser, Westport, CT
No. 2 seed, Alex Visser, rolled through the Boys’ 16s draw en route to his first Sectional title. Visser opened his tournament with a 7-5, 7-6(4) win over Robert Daus and cruised to the final by dropping just four total games over his next two matches. He took down No. 7 Connor McDonald and No. 5 Josh Israel in the process.
In the final, Visser matched up with unseeded Jayanth Deviah, whose signature win was knocking out top-seeded Teddy Truwit in the round of 16. Visser defeated Deviah, 6-3, 6-3, but he praised him following the match.
“I’m happy for Jayanth because he’s improved so much. It was a good, fair match, and Jayanth has really worked on his net game, so I was working on taking time away from him,” Visser said.
For Visser, this was his first Sectionals in two years. Last year, he suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for roughly a year.
“It definitely motivated me in terms of practicing and wanting to get back and play. I think I just wanted it more this year, and I had some tough National L3 losses this year, so it feels good to finally bring one home,” Visser said. “I just took it one match at a time, stayed focused and tough, and it felt good to close the tournament better than I started.”
Girls’ 16s- Violet Robbins, Fairfield, CT
The only two-time winner of Junior Sectionals is 2019 Girls’ 16s champion, Violet Robbins. Over the past three years, the 14-year-old Robbins, of Fairfield, CT, has reached the finals of three different age divisions. In 2017, she won the 12s title, and last year, she fell in the final of the 14s to Maddie Swire.
“It feels pretty great, and I was really excited to be in the finals again. I lost last year. It was a tough match and wasn’t exactly close, and I didn’t want to let that happen again,” Robbins said.
The only set the No. 2 seeded Robbins dropped throughout the tournament was in her 4+ hour quarterfinal match with Caroline Driscoll, which she battled back to win, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.
In the final, Robbins fell 2-5 in the first to No. 4 seeded Sahana Raman, but battled back to steal the set, 7-5. Robbins kept the momentum rolling into the second set, where she finished off the match, 6-3.
“She has a really good serve and I had to just wait for her to miss,” Robbins said. “She was bombing a lot of winners early, so I had to wait until she was a little off and miss more to get back into the match.”
Boys’ 14s- Kaiaitz Mendibe, Springfield, MA
After losing to Mattise Farzam in the final of Boys’ 12s last year, Kaiaitz Mendibe was up for the challenge of jumping up an age division and taking care of business.
“This was my third Sectionals and I think I was a little more motivated this year,” Mendibe said. They don’t hit as hard in the 12s, and it’s more important to hold your serve now in the 14s, and I think I’ve definitely improved on that from last year.”
The No. 3 Mendibe won two difficult matches against Logan Li (6-4, 6-4) and Matthew Fuffo (6-2, 7-5) to set up a date with 2017 12s champion, Petro Kuzmenok.
Mendibe and the No. 2 seeded Kuzmenok split the first two sets, and after battling to a 6-6 score in the third, needed a tiebreak to decide the set and match.
Nine intense points later, Kuzmenok went up 6-3 and Mendibe was on the brink of dropping his second straight final.
“I was nervous but I knew I could do it. I said to myself, just three more points, and then when it was six all, I said two points, and just went from there,” Mendibe said.
Mendibe grabbed five consecutive points to win the tiebreak, 8-6.
His reward was a spot in the championship against top-seeded Utsav Subramani. In their previous five matchups, Subramani was up 3-2, but the tournament belonged to Mendibe. He evened up the series by taking the match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
Girls’ 14s- Oziera Ahmad, Hampton, NH
Oziera Ahmad’s first major tournament win sure came at the right time. The 14-year-old Hampton, NH resident earned an L7 victory earlier this year, but hadn’t seen this much success against elite talent, until now.
“I’ve never won a big tournament before so this feels great. The girls in this tournament were competitive and experienced, and that made it hard for me, but I’ve gotten older and more mature from last year and that’s helped a lot,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad lost in the second round in 2018 and used that to better herself in 2019. Without dropping a set, she cruised through the 14s bracket and picked up key wins against Augusta Beveridge, 6-0, 6-2 and Mariana Shulman, 6-2, 6-4.
Boys’ 12s- Joseph Oyebog, Westport, CT
To say Joseph Oyebog worked hard to earn his Sectional title is an understatement. The 11-year-old Westport, CT resident, originally from Cameroon, had arguably the most unique training regimen at the tournament.
“I’m very excited because I pushed myself through this and worked really hard. I woke up at 3 or 4 am to get to the courts by 5 am. I’d warm up, do my dynamic workout, play my match and then watch my sister,” Oyebog said.
The No. 4 seeded Oyebog had little trouble reaching the semis, where he matched up against top-seeded Troy Kudrjavtsev. It was then and in the finals against No. 2 seeded Max Frias, where the training paid off most. He played three set tiebreaks in the two matches, outlasting Kudrjavtsev, 7-6(3), 7-6(4), and defeating Frias, 7-6(5), 6-3.
“I think it paid off. I was moving faster, I felt lighter, and even though my shots weren’t as powerful sometimes as they can be, I still played really well,” Oyebog said.
Girls’ 12s- Sydney Jara- Wenham, MA
Sydney Jara had hands down the most dominant tournament run of any champion. After her round of 16 match against Emily Wang, in which she won, 6-2, 6-0, Jara did not drop a single game the rest of Sectionals. The top-seeded 11-year-old defeated Shelly Tang, Maya Muhunthan and Olivia Koziol all by a 6-0, 6-0 mark to conquer her first Sectionals title.
“I’m really happy. I actually enjoy the heat, and it makes me play a little harder,” Jara said. “I got a lot of balls back because some of the girls weren’t consistent, and my goal was to keep it in play and when the offense was there, go for it.”
Jara lost in the semifinals of Sectionals last year but was able to have more success thanks to a grip change as well as her shots getting bigger and stronger.
For full results from Junior Sectionals, click here.
For photos from Junior Sectionals, click here.