Emilia Falconi ’23 (Riobamba, Ecuador) won her 6th title in the South American Junior Squash Championship in Peru.
As a five-time defending champion, Falconi, 18, was hoping to capture another title for her last year of competition on the junior circuit. She has won two U-15 titles, two U-17 titles, and one U-19 title.
On February 15, Falconi reached the finals, and won the match–11-4, 11-6, 11-2–adding another U-19 title to her accomplishments.
In her age group, there were 20 players, most of whom earned spots from their performance in a qualifying tournament.
Falconi, who is spending a postgraduate year at Mercersburg Academy, wasn’t able to play in the qualifier because she was out of the country. However, because she is the No. 1 ranked junior U-19 player in Ecuador, and the defending champion, she received an invitation to compete.
Players hailed from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador. At the tournament, she was planning to see some of her South American friends who have applied to Mercersburg Academy next year.
“My experience here has been great,” Falconi said, referring to Mercersburg Academy. “I'm having a really good experience, because it's really different. In Ecuador, we don't have boarding schools. Each day we have eight or nine classes. Here we have three or four. Here we can take classes that we want to take.”
This is the first year she has spent so far away from home, and even though she’s missing her country, family and friends, she is enjoying the Mercersburg experience and feels like she has a second family here.
“I applied to a bunch of schools. I chose Mercersburg because the connection with Coach Tyree was really good,” Falconi said, referring to Mercersburg’s Head Squash Coach Ryan Tyree. “Also, the campus is amazing. I'm glad that I chose this high school because I'm having a great time, and all the people here are super kind, and we have interesting activities to do. Also, I'm glad to have this team, this squash team. They are very supportive. They are always there when I need them, so I really like it.”
The school’s traditions, such as painting the numbers, the bonfire during Family and Alumni Weekend, and the boxer-bikini run around campus after the first snowfall are “amazing,” Falconi said. “The Chinese New Year was great because it was the first time I had experienced something like that. In Ecuador, we’re not used to international holidays.”
Falconi has committed to the squash team at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she has a full athletic scholarship.
The City of Brotherly Love is an ideal place for squash players because both Drexel and University of Pennsylvania have strong squash programs, and the city is home to Arlen Specter Squash Club, which Falconi says is the biggest squash club in America.
For now, though, she’s focusing on finishing her last junior season strong and enjoying time with her family while at the tournament in Peru.
“I'm happy because I'm going to see my teammates from Ecuador, the whole Ecuador team is going, my parents are going, my brother is going,” Falconi said.
She was looking forward to the tournament because she felt supported, both on site and from her school.
“I'm very grateful, because Mercersburg is giving me the opportunity to go there and play, and also with my coaches and my teammates. They are supporting me. They are working hard with me,” Falconi said prior to leaving for the tournament. “I just want to close this season with a gold medal. I'm nervous, but at the same time, I feel confident. I have been training really, really hard.”
At the beginning of the school year, Falconi experienced a difficult shin splint injury which she called “a terrible experience.”
“I was having a lot of depression and was feeling so anxious,” Falconi said, noting that she tapped into the counseling services at the school health center and that it also helped to talk to Mercersburg’s Associate Athletic Trainer Leah Daniels. “She helped me a lot.”
Now she’s free of injuries and ready to play.
Shortly after returning to campus, Falconi will compete for Mercersburg Academy at the high school nationals February 24 to 26 in Philadelphia.
“We are all excited to welcome her back to close out our season,” said Tyree, noting that the girls squash team has jumped two divisions to compete in Division II for the first time, so their venue will be the Arlen Specter U.S. Squash Center.