The men’s squash team wrapped up its regular season schedule against some of its stiffest competition of the year with bouts against Ivy−Leaguers Brown and Dartmouth. Though the Tufts squad came back to the Hill with two losses in hand, the Jumbos took away some positives from going up against higher−level competition.
“Going into this weekend, we were playing very highly ranked teams, and I don’t think we’ve ever beaten those teams before,” senior co−captain Max Dalury said. “It’s good for us to play these teams, though, because it is great preparation for Nationals.”
On Saturday’s final match against the Dartmouth Big Green, the Jumbos saw nothing but red in a disappointing 9−0 loss. Sitting at No. 7 in the nation, Dartmouth took all but one match in straight sets.
In the No. 1 position, however, junior Alex Gross temporarily fended off Big Green freshman Christopher Hanson, who ranked at No. 2 in the nation among squash players under the age of 19. Gross won the first set 11−9 but lost the remaining three sets by an average margin of 11−6. Despite straight−set defeats, players in the No. 3, 6 and 9 positions pushed their final sets into extra points. While Tufts remained scoreless at the end of the match, these competitive showings bode well for the nationally ranked No. 19 Jumbos as they look towards Nationals.
“The opponent Alex [Gross] played was ranked among the top players in the country,” Dalury said. “Since his freshman year, though, Alex has gone out and won every match he was supposed to and has played strongly against players ranked above him. It’s great for Alex to play tight squash like that, and it bodes well for us as a team going into Nationals.”
Facing off against No. 14 Brown earlier that day, the Tufts squad hoped to grasp its first win against the Bears in at least a decade. Despite early losses in the No. 1 and 2 positions, senior co−captain Zach Bradley controlled the T for a four−set victory in the No. 3 match.
“He was a huge guy, and I was able to get him into the corners and keep him moving around, and that kept him off guard enough for me to get a win,” said Bradley of his opponent, Bears junior Benjamin Clayman. “He came off strong in the first game, but I knew I could get points from him in the rest of the games by just keeping him moving.”
In the No. 4 game, junior Ben Rind was tied 1−1 with his opponent going into the third set, but broke through by winning the following sets 13−11 and 11−8. Although the Bears took the remaining matches in straight sets, the Jumbos kept the matches close. In the No. 6 position, Taylor lost his last two sets in 12−10 grudge matches, while senior Scott Leighton dropped his No. 7 match in close 11−9 and 11−8 games. Falling 7−2 on the day, the Jumbos experienced a number of near−misses in relatively close matchups.
“Brown was really able to put away the ball in a bunch of matches,” Dalury said. “Points get extended and our team is fit right now and we’re pushing ourselves, but the Brown kids did a very good job at finishing … In my own match, my opponent had a much better front court game than I did and that put me under greater pressure, which ultimately ended in a close match in his favor.”
The Jumbos will travel to Yale this weekend as they begin postseason play at the Nine−Man Nationals. Slated to compete in the third division, Tufts could see rematches against similarly talented squads like Hamilton, Middlebury and Amherst. Marking the last team competition of the year, Nationals could give Tufts a chance to avenge a close 6−3 loss against Amherst as well as an 8−1 drubbing at the hands of Middlebury earlier this year. As Tufts holds a 10−11 overall record on the year, Nationals could determine whether the Jumbos end the year with a winning or losing record.
“We should be competing in the third division, and our goal is to win the division,” Bradley said. “We’ve played a bunch of teams around us in the rankings, so we know what to expect. We’re hoping that by playing teams a second time we could get different outcomes against those teams that we lost by close margins to … Going into Nationals, and the outcomes we get there, will really determine how the season went.”
“Hopefully we’ll get a chance at redemption against teams like Amherst and Middlebury who beat us early this season,” Dalury added. “It’s not going to be a cake walk, and we’re preparing for a very tough weekend ahead.”