Optimistic Jumbos look forward to Nationals

Senior Zach Schweitzer hopes to rally his team after tough defeats at NESCACs. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

The 11th-seeded men’s squash team traveled to Williams College last weekend for the 2015 NESCAC Championship tournament prepared and confident.  The Jumbos were unable to come home with team success, however, due to a few critical players’ being injured.

“We didn’t perform as well as we hoped,” senior Elliot Kardon said.

Two of those injuries kept senior Zach Schweitzer and junior tri-captain Aditya Advani out of the lineup for two of the three matches. This limited the potential for the Jumbos’ success this past weekend.

“Both Zach and I were injured and found it hard to compete at a level that we usually do, so it became hard to get those important wins,” Advani said. “We hope to perform better these coming weekends.

In the first round, Tufts lost 9-0 to sixth-seeded Wesleyan. Following the loss, the Jumbos played their top rival, the Camels of Conn. College, in the first consolation match. The Jumbos have been looking forward to this match as they had recently lost to the Camels but they believed that they could flip the results a second time around.

“We really hoped to upset Conn. College and felt we had a good chance,” Kardon said. “Unfortunately, they really showed up to play, and we were riddled with a few injuries and sick players.”

Tufts ended up losing to Conn. College 8-1 on Friday night.

Senior Hugo Meggit had a thrilling victory, however, earning the Jumbos one point during that match. Meggit’s victory was an emotional one, as it would prove to be his last match in NESCAC play as a Jumbo. His win was an extremely close five-game match: 3-11, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9.

Although the losses looked bad on paper, Kardon and Advani both agreed that the team’s inability to stay healthy hindered its recent performances.

“I think we played as well as we could have, but the injuries resulted in some unfortunate losses,” Advani said. “With some recovery time this coming week, I feel we will do better in the next few matches.”

In order to keep the team’s spirits high through injuries and losses, Schweitzer had a unique approach.

“I’m a spiritual rather than physical leader,” Schweitzer said. “We hold meetings for worship and other meditative activities to keep morale up and crystal clear focus.”

Kardon also pointed to the strong team dynamics, which keep the team morale so high through hardship.

“We also have great camaraderie on the team … all the guys like hanging out with each other,” Kardon said. “At this point, we stay motivated for each other.”

The Jumbos still have an opportunity to finish on a high note this year — both as a team and individually — with the College Squash Association (CSA) Team Championships, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 20 and the CSA Individual Championships, scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 27.

As the Jumbos gear up for the team championships, they have their physical and mental game to improve upon.

“We will be working hard on our strokes at practices and keeping up our fitness to ensure that we are in good shape for nationals,” Advani said.

Kardon believes that game management will be essential for the Jumbos to succeed.

“Shot selection,” he said, when asked about what the most important focus of the team was. “At this point, we are as fit as we will be. We just need to focus on strategy and choosing the right shots in the right positions.”

Aside from the physical goals between now and Nationals, Schweitzer said the team needs to focus on their mental strength.

“Sudoku, crosswords and jigsaw puzzles are all great ways to do this,” he said.

The team remains optimistic about their chances in Nationals as they ended up with a higher national ranking than expected this season.

“We just jumped into the highly competitive D Division, which is great news for our national ranking,” Kardon said. “We will be a top 30 national team. The only question is, can we be top 25? I think we can. We have a strong chance of finishing between 2-4 in the competitive D national division.”