Nevada’s Savannah Easton and Florida’s Sofia Mast take all five BEF Junior National Girls title

Reports Source: Azbilliards

Easton and Mast appear in three of the five divisional finals 

Unless, for some reason or another, you’ve been out of touch with the pool community recently, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Savannah Easton (The Road Runner) and Sofia Mast (The Pink Dagger) won all five of the Girls titles at the 2023 BEF Junior Nationals last week (July 24-30) at the Oakley-Lindsay Center in Quincy, IL. They’ve been butting heads across a number of junior events for a couple of years now, culminating in this year’s Junior Nationals by facing each other three times in the finals of separate divisions. As a prelude to the story that follows, it should be noted that there are a number of national, notable and ongoing rivalries among many junior female competitors; rivalries between Easton, Mast, Skylar Hess, the Tate sisters (Bethany and Noelle), Courtney Hairfield, Jordan Helfery and Precilia Kinsley (et al) in any number of age-specific combinations. 

Easton arrived in Quincy, IL last week to defend her 2022 Junior National 14U Girls 9-ball and 8-Ball titles, accomplishing the former and finishing as runner-up to Sofia Mast in the latter. In addition to the Junior Nationals 14U Girls title (11 entrants), Easton also won the 18U Girls 10-Ball title (23 entrants) and the Junior Nationals’ premier 22U Girls 14:1, straight pool title (31 entrants).

Easton’s goal going into the 2023 Junior Nationals was to defend both of her titles and by winning the 18U Girls 10-ball title, qualify for the World Juniors event, scheduled for Oct. 19-22 in Klagenfurt, Austria; an event that has changed its core game to 10-Ball. Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say. Easton defended the one title and after winning the 10-Ball title, was nominated to join 10 other Junior National competitors in Austria.

“I am very excited to have exceeded my expectations, defending one of my titles and winning the 18U 10-Ball World Qualifier, along with the first (Junior National) 14:1 Straight Pool title,” she said. “It means a lot to me to progress in just one year of time.”

The 23-entrant, 18U Girls event was executed in two phases; a double-elimination, first phase that whittled the field down to a final eight, four from each side of the bracket and a single-elimination phase that brought it to a conclusion. You may recognize some of the key competitors in this narrative. Easton had defeated Mast 6-3 in the third and final round of the double-elimination phase. Easton, Kennedy Meyman, and the two Tate sisters (Bethany and Noelle) advanced to the final bracket from the winners’ side. Mast, Hess, Helfery and Avah Weems advanced from the loss side.

Meyman executed a double-hill win over Mast in the first single-elimination round and was then eliminated by Bethany Tate 6-3 in the semifinals. Easton, in the meantime, downed Helfery and in the semifinals, Noelle Tate, both 6-4, to join Bethany in the finals. Through six matches in the two phases, Easton would give up an average of only two racks per game; that average ending up low, when, in the double-elimination phase, she shut out her first two opponents and gave up only three racks to Mast. She would go on to give up four each in the first two matches of single-elimination to Jordan Helfery and Noelle Tate. She gave up only one rack to Bethany Tate in the finals to claim the title and in effect, punch her ticket to Austria.

“I was very determined to win in the finals,” Easton said. “I knew Bethany was a strong player. I needed to bring my A game and stay focused.”

“To be able to represent our country is an honor on its own,” she added, “and if I were fortunate enough to win my first world junior title in the near future, it will be the biggest stepping stone in my career as a pool player; to move forward in the future and make my country proud.”

Easton’s battle to defend her 2022, 14U Girls 9-ball title went through Jordan Helfery, twice. Upon arrival to compete for the hot seat, Easton had yet to give up a single rack, shutting out her first two opponents. She gave up one rack to Helfery to claim the hot seat. Helfery downed Noelle Tate 6-4 in the semifinals and Easton shut her out in the finals to successfully defend her  title. 

The BEF Junior Nationals’ premier 14:1 straight pool competition drew the largest field (31) of all the Girls events. By the time, the numbers had dwindled down to six (Wednesday evening), the list of ‘usual suspects’ were all that were left; Easton faced Helfery in one of the winners’ side semifinals while Mast and Bethany Tate squared off in the other one. Kennedy Meyman and Precilia Kinsley awaited the results on the loss side.

To that point, in races to 50, the winners’ side matches had been yielding an estimated, winning point differential of between 20 and 25 balls. With some exceptions, like the Tate and Skylar Hess winners’ side quarterfinal that finished with Tate ahead by 10, 50-40. The two winners’ side semifinals, yielded point differentials of 7 and 8 balls; Mast downing Tate 50-43 and Easton defeating Helfery 50-42. 

After what was, according to Easton, a difficult start to her week, she was ‘catching a gear.’

“When I first arrived, I was struggling with the humidity, time-zone change and the long traveling,” she said. “After a couple of better nights rest and good breakfasts, I started to warm up to the conditions.”

Not good news for those who had to face her during and after her participation in Wednesday’s 14:1 competition. She finished the event by defeating Mast 50-35 to claim the hot seat and when Mast returned from a 25-18 victory over Bethany Tate in the semifinals, defeated her a second time, 25-6 to claim the Junior Nationals’ first 14:1 title.

The Pink Dagger takes down The Roadrunner in finals of 8-Ball and 16U Girls 9-Ball

By all accounts (their own and those who spend time with them), the two girls are situational friends. They have certainly spent a lot of quality time together, battling back and forth at a pool table in a variety of locations all over the country. Away from the tables, they don’t get much of an opportunity to ‘hang out.’ Their respective homes (Florida and Las Vegas) being some 2,300 miles apart. But you’d never know it from watching them at the tables. Their camaraderie is evident. Their quiet interactions in a game/match are cordial and comfortable; no grim faces or any sign that they’re playing in any kind of consequential event. Their determination and skill underlies a respect and enjoyment of each other’s company (occasionally interrupted by the task at hand), which, in a way, makes their competitive battles a joy to watch.

They met first last week in the 22U Girls 8-Ball event that got underway on Tuesday, July 25 when, according to Easton, she was still adjusting to the atmosphere, literal and figurative. Easton lost her second match in a double-hill battle against Marissa Du, who would go on to win a second straight double-hill battle, against Jordan Helfery, and advance to the hot seat match. Mast, in the meantime, was cruising, giving up two total racks to her first three opponents, one of which she gave up to Bethany Tate in a winners’ side semifinal to face Du in the hot seat match. Mast gave up another rack to Du claiming the hot seat.

Easton, in the meantime, in races to 4, had set out on a five-match, loss-side winning streak that had eventually eliminated, in order, Bethany Tate (0), Precilia Kinsley (1) and in the semifinals, Du 4-1; the atmospheric adjustment apparently well underway. The Pink Dagger though, struck quickly and decisively in the finals, giving up just a single rack to Easton and claiming her first 2023 Junior National title.

They met again in the finals of the short-field (9 entrants) 16U Girls 9-Ball event. Mast won five straight matches to claim the title. She gave up a total of only five racks through 41 games; 1 in the opener against Avah Weems, none at all to Jordan Helfery and Massachusetts’ Darragh O’Connor. In the hot seat match, she gave up only two to Easton. Easton downed Skylar Hess 7-5 in the semifinals before giving up two more in the finals to Mast who claimed the title 8-2.

Mast will not be joining those who qualified for the World Junior Nationals in October. She’d been among the final eight in the qualifying 18U Girls 10-ball division, but lost, double hill, to Kennedy Meyman in the opening round of the event’s single elimination phase. She is most definitely not a teenager that dwells on the past (an early, important lesson in any competitive sport).

“It was crushing,” she admitted of her loss in the 10-ball competition, “but I’m happy with my other finishes. I played in four events, winning two of them and runner-up in a third.”

Mast was on the hill at 5-2 against Meyman, who rallied to win the match. 

“I think I played really well the whole week,” said Mast, “so I’m proud of my performance, but the pressure of how much the qualifying tournament meant to me, got to me and at the end of that match, my nerves took over and I just couldn’t finish.”

“I was shaking even before that match started,” she added, “and needing just one more game and one more ball, I lost focus and momentum and let it slip away.”

Mast offered congratulations to all of the qualifying competitors and Meyman in particular, because she “deserves her spot and my respect for not giving up.”

“Go show the world what the US can do,” she told all of the qualifying competitors headed for Austria in October.   

Easton and Mast won all five Junior National girls titles and met in the finals of three of them. In their private lives, neither has yet to enter high school, though they are both looking at the potential for a long and productive career playing pool. Whether they will maintain their interest and skills to make it a primary career remains to be seen. Alternative careers are possible, but at their age, the existence of at least one career that demonstrates such extraordinary potential is rare, remarkable and a demonstration of two extraordinary young women with at least one extraordinary talent. 

Qualifiers to the Predator Junior World Championships on October 19-22 in Klagenfurt, Austria

Girls Under 19 –  Savannah Easton, Bethany Tate, Kennedy Meyman, Noelle Tate

Boys Under 19 – Samuel Henderson, Landon Hollingsworth, Garrett Vaughan and Hank Leinen

Boys Under 16 – Adrian Prassad, Hayden Ernst, Jas Makhani and Hank Leinen

(Leinen can’t play in both, so he will go in for the 16U division)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap