Junior squash champions Julian Morrison and Jake Mahfood stormed back from early-round losses to take the top two positions, respectively, in the first round of qualification for the 2014 Caribbean and Central American (CAC) Games and the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which was contested at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston over the weekend.
Morrison, the All Jamaica Under-19 boys' champion, proved indefatigable as he battled through several hard matches to win the three-day tournament.
After being highly favoured to cruise into the final, Morrison suffered an upset at the hands of veteran, Bruce Levy, who beat him 10-12, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5 in the last stage of the round robin segment of the tournament on Saturday night.
The loss meant Morrison had to face tournament favourite, Caribbean Under-19 champion, Ashante Smith, in the semi-finals on Sunday morning, rather than in the finals as had been widely predicted. Morrison rose to the occasion, toppling Smith 11-7, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6 to make it to the final.
All Jamaica Under-17 boys' champion, Jake Mahfood, also proved his mettle by rebounding from an opening-round loss to Smith. The fiery teenager came back to beat veteran Joey Levy 11-8, 12-10, 11-6 and then followed it up with an 11-2, 6-11, 11-8, 11-5 win over Bruce Levy.
In the final, Mahfood took a commanding lead by winning the first two games, but Morrison roared back to answer his national junior teammate shot for shot, and eventually sealed a 6-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-7 victory.
Bruce Levy took third place after Smith conceded due to injury. The players were tied at 10-10 in the third game, with Smith up 11-5, 11-3 when the Under-19 Caribbean champion suffered a dramatic mishap and had to withdraw.
In the women's draw, squash queen Karen Anderson beat All Jamaica and Caribbean Under-15 girls champion and reigning All Jamaica ladies champion, Alyssa Mullings, in the final.
In a highly anticipated match, Anderson, the 12-time All Jamaica champion, proved she still has the goods by dismissing the rising star 11-9, 11-8, 11-9.
Also, former national senior team player, Tracy Binnie, beat Melissa Lue-Yen 11-9, 11-2, 12-10.
"It was great to see the junior players stepping up, and the youngsters did well to make it through the first stage of qualification," said Gill Binnie, secretary of the Jamaica Squash Association.
"The next stage will be even more challenging, but they have served notice to the senior players that they are prepared to fight for a place on the national team," she added.
Morrison and Mahfood, as well as Anderson, Mullings, Lue-Yen and Binnie, will go on to compete in the final round of qualification for the CAC and Commonwealth Games, which will be held in April 2014.