For the men’s tennis team, the 2013 spring season has been all but humdrum. The Jumbos started hot, winning four of their first five matches, but since then have endured some tough losses, including a 5-4 heartbreaker against Wesleyan on April 14.
With the regular season finally drawing to a close, however, Tufts has finally found a rhythm and is playing some of its best tennis in recent memory. After blowing out Trinity 8-1 on April 16 and taking No. 9 Middlebury to the wire last Monday, the Jumbos continued their success Wednesday with another 8-1 victory, this time against the Mules of Colby.
Going into the match, members of coach Jaime Kenney’s squad noted the importance of such a battle with a trip to the NESCAC tournament on the line.
“We wanted to compete well and keep our momentum,” senior tri-captain Andrew Lutz said. “We knew this would be a tough match that we should not take lightly … [but] if we came out with high energy, the results would reflect that.”
Coming off the three-hour drive to Waterville, it took a while for the Jumbos to settle in and begin taking control, and all three of the doubles matches were decided by a mere two games each. The No. 2 and No. 3 Tufts pairs sealed victories in the end, while the No. 1 duo of senior Ben Barad and freshman Rob Jacobson fell just short in an 8-6 defeat.
Although Barad and Jacobson have struggled recently against some of the top doubles teams in the conference, the pair is feeling as strong as ever and will be ready for playoff action in the coming weeks, according to Jacobson.
“Individually, I feel like I am hitting the ball well, which is obviously a testament to my coaches, who have been putting together really great practices these past few weeks,” he said. “I’ve just been trying … not to take any match too lightly or put too much pressure on myself.”
Though Colby challenged the Tufts squad in the opening portion of the match, the Jumbos started to roll once the singles players took the court. Freshman Jay Glickman finished first at No. 2 with a 6-0, 6-1 victory, which was followed by wins from No. 3 Lutz and sophomore No. 6 Brian Tan, who only needed two sets apiece to finish off their matches. Tan’s win was the clincher, extending the Jumbos’ lead to 5-1 and making the final three matches mere formalities.
With Kenney’s players rolling and gaining confidence, the team is shaping up to be a dangerous matchup in the postseason despite a lackluster 4-4 conference record. Lutz noted that the players’ relationships with one another have led to growth and success both on and off the court.
“Over the course of this season, this team has truly felt like more of a team than I’ve ever felt in my four years here,” he said. “I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
Despite clinching a NESCAC tournament berth with Wednesday’s victory, the players continue to remind themselves that conference season is far from over.
“I think we are all really pleased with our results thus far, but I don’t think any of us are satisfied,” Jacobson said. “We always have our eye on our next opponents, but our sight is firmly set on the long term goals.”
Before the tournament begins in early May, the Jumbos will be tested over the next week by some of the nation’s best, beginning with a trip to Brunswick this afternoon to take on No. 6 Bowdoin. Tufts will then return home to square off against No. 5 Williams this Sunday and finish off the season on May 1 away at No. 20 MIT.
Despite having to face three extremely talented squads, Kenney and company know exactly what to expect after falling mere points short of upsetting No. 9 Middlebury in a third set tiebreaker less than a week ago.
“For us to continue a run at our title, we have to trust ourselves and our coaches,” Lutz said. “All the work we have put in … has helped us all improve. The confidence in having that knowledge and applying it to matches is something we can use to beat any team, regardless of their ranking.”