For the No. 32 men’s squash team, an up-and-down season marked by a new coach and a difficult second half came to a close this weekend with a defeat in the first round of the Conroy Division at the College Squash Association Men’s National Team Championships.
Much like the rest of the season, the team’s final three matches at Nationals were marked by strong play from top individuals on the ladder, but lacked the depth and team results to consistently win matches against skilled opponents.
“It’s difficult to predict how you’ll play at the national tournament, given the high levels of pressure and nerves,” sophomore co-captain Zach Schweitzer said. “We have a very young team, and I definitely think that the pressure got to us a little bit.”
Tufts’ chase for an upset in the Conroy Cup kicked off on Friday against No. 25 Colby, the top seed in the division and a team to whom Jumbos had fallen twice earlier this season, 9-0 and 7-2.
Against the Mules, Tufts managed to secure wins in the top two positions. Freshman and All-NESCAC selection Aditya Advani took down Colby’s top player, C.J. Smith, in straight sets, 11-7, 11-8, 12-10. Meanwhile, Schweitzer won in the No. 2 position, defeating Colby’s Trey Simpson 11-6, 12-10, 6-11, 11-7.
Sophomore Elliot Kardon, who played in the No. 7 slot, also pulled out a four-set win over Darryl Soto, but despite closely contested matches everywhere else on the ladder, the Jumbos dropped matches in all other positions, propelling the Mules to a 6-3 victory.
“We played as well as we possibly could have,” Schweitzer said. “Colby beat us twice in the regular season, and we knew we would have needed to play our absolute best to pull off that upset.”
The loss put Tufts in the loser’s bracket of the Conroy Division, giving the Jumbos two more consolation matches. In their first match against No. 28 Haverford College, the Jumbos found their stride. Winning seven of their nine matchups in straight sets, Tufts cruised to a 9-0 victory over the higher-seeded Black Squirrels.
And in its final match of the season, Sunday afternoon against Hobart, Tufts lost an incredibly tight match 4-5 despite victories from Advani and Schweitzer.
Advani won comfortably, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9, but Schweitzer fought through a grueling five-set affair against McGee O’Neil to take an 11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 7-11, 11-4 victory. Kardon finished off an undefeated weekend from the No. 7 spot with an 11-3, 11-8, 11-6 victory, and junior co-captain Jeremy Ho earned the Jumbos’ fourth win, also in five sets from the No. 3 spot.
The loss brought Tufts’ final record to 8-14, capping off a difficult year with some strong showings at the tournament. Despite the loss, the future looks bright for the group, which will return its entire lineup next year.
Throughout the season, the Jumbos had to battle early instability and untimely injuries, but Ho believes that those trials will only strengthen the team for next year.
“We had a few bumps in the road, but I think everyone came together. Next season, I think we’ll be able to hit the ground running,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to improve a lot more.”
Schweitzer, who battled through injury for significant parts of the season, agreed that next year’s team will be strong.
“The outlook for the future couldn’t be brighter,” he said. “With no players leaving next year and a potentially large recruiting class, we expect to raise Tufts squash to a whole new level next season.”