Tufts overcomes obstacles for successful season

The Jumbos built this season around experienced seniors and improving underclassmen. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

The men’s squash team entered the 2014-15 season with high hopes of finishing off the season with a higher ranking than its previous one, No. 34. The Jumbos were able to achieve this goal, which can be attributed to the team’s camaraderie, improved practices and hard work on and off the court.

“This season was far better than last season,” senior tri-captain Elliot Kardon said. “Coach [Joe] McManus really improved our practices and the team had a better dynamic.”

The team finished strong despite a shaky start to the season. Tufts started play in November losing to Wesleyan, Conn. College, Hamilton and Middlebury.

The Jumbos were determined not to let these losses define them, and the team began working even harder on maintaining solid physical fitness.

“Since we don’t have as much access to courts as other NESCAC schools do, the only thing we can focus on is getting stronger,” sophomore Owen Elliot said.

Kardon agreed with this statement.

“As a team, we improved our fitness early on in the season which really paid off,” he said.

As a result, the team was able to regain confidence with wins against Vassar and MIT. Tufts won both matches in convincing fashion; it beat Vassar with a decisive 8-1 win, and took its match against MIT by a score of 6-3.

When they returned in early January, the Jumbos were prepared to accomplish more of their team goals: staying mentally and physically tough, winning a match in the NESCAC Championship tournament and gaining a higher national ranking by the end of the season. They began working on their fitness and mental toughness in order to achieve some of these goals.

“Over the course of the season, coach McManus emphasized the importance of mental toughness and I think the team noticeably improved in that category,” senior tri-captain Hugo Meggitt said.

The results didn’t follow immediately; Tufts resumed play on Jan. 13 and lost a tough match to Bates.

However, determined to not let the loss to the Bobcats discourage them, the Jumbos went on a three-match winning streak. The streak contained some of the biggest moments of Tufts’ season. Not only did the Jumbos simply run off their longest winning streak of the season, but they did so decisively.

Tufts beat Haverford at Belmont Hill on Jan. 16 and Brandeis the next day, both by scores of 9-0, before beating Boston College 8-1 on Jan. 20. The streak was arguably the biggest catalyst for the Jumbos’ rise to a higher national ranking than they had last year.

The rest of the season leading up to the NESCAC Championship would not be as successful. The Jumbos were unable to come out with a win as they faced some of the toughest teams in the country.

“The NESCAC division is some of the best squash in the country,” Kardon said. “So its not surprising that we have a hard time competing, considering the fact that every other NESCAC program has squash courts and we do not.”

The Jumbos were still excited to have been invited to play in the NESCAC Championships, which were held at Williams College this year. Unfortunately for Tufts, it had a tough draw and faced its most competitive rivals, Wesleyan, Conn. College and Hamilton. Although the Jumbos were unable to accomplish their goal of winning a match in the tournament, they were pleased with their performance given the fact that they had players out with injuries and sickness.

“We faced some really tough competition this year at NESCACs,” Meggitt said. “We came very close to winning but came just short. The other teams were slightly better.”

Meggitt is hopeful that with new players next year, the Jumbos will have a good shot at changing their results.

The team continued to train in anticipation of the College Squash Association (CSA) Team Championships. The Jumbos practiced through the snow and geared up to reach their goal of a higher national ranking.

Their hard work paid off, as the Jumbos were able to beat the Engineers of MIT once again this season with a score of 6-3 in the first round of CSAs. However, in the second round Tufts faced Hamilton and was unable to come out with a win. This time, the Jumbos played a much closer match, losing 6-3.

In Tufts’ final match at CSAs, the team faced Stanford. The Jumbos fell in an extremely tight 5-4 match. Their strong performance against Stanford ended the season on a high note and provided them with confidence heading into next season. 

Meggitt thinks that the team has a very bright future ahead of it.

“We see it all the time in squash, where a player trains exceptionally hard in the off-season and comes back the next season a transformed player,” Meggitt said. “I think [first-years] John Patrick, Alec Goodrich, Braden Chiulli, Sandeep Rishi and [sophomore] Danny Fischer all have the potential to be that guy. [Sophomore] Owen Elliot has already shown signs of beginning that process as well. I see a lot of potential in this team.”

Kardon echoed Meggitt’s sentiments. He believes the team will benefit from a new influx of talent.

“Coach McManus got a great recruiting class that is still shaping up,” he said. “We anticipate getting at least four players who will play in the top nine. We hope to be much deeper next year.”

The Jumbos ended the year pleased with the direction in which the team is heading, and if they can continue to perform well on a national scale, they should see some of their intangible improvements manifest themselves in the team’s record going forward.