Mixed results for Tufts going into championship weekend

Sophomore Isabella Libassi chases a ball in a match against Wellesley on Jan. 27 at the Zesiger Squash Courts at MIT. Alex Knapp / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts women’s squash team split its last two matches in contrasting styles as it wrapped up its last week of competition before the NESCAC Championships this weekend. The Jumbos couldn’t get anything going against the Colby Mules on Saturday, falling 9-0, but came back to record a 7-2 victory on Monday against the Boston College Eagles at Belmont Hill. The win and loss leaves Tufts with an above-.500 record of 7-6 going into championship weekend.

No. 24 Tufts took on No. 20 Colby on Saturday to start off the weekend in a battle of evenly-ranked teams. But the Mules would not be upset, dominating every match up and winning all except one in straight games.

Jumbo senior captain and first-position player Paget Stanco started the day off by falling to sophomore Devin Mullaney 11-4, 11-4, 11-3. In the second position, first-year Zarena Jafry lost to the Mules’ senior captain Julie Wolpow in a closer match that saw Jafry score 22 points across the three games, but it still netted a similar result. Colby made it three wins out of three when first-year Helen Bernhard beat Tufts first-year Sinclair Meggitt 11-3, 11-3, 11-4. The result was all but in the bag for Colby when senior Mikaela Johnson, who took the courts in the fourth position, saw off the challenge of sophomore Claudia Udolf 11-5, 11-4, 11-5.

First-year Sahana Karthik provided the lone bright spot for Tufts on Saturday, taking two games against her Colby opponent and battling into a fifth game.  She was unable to eke out the win, however, as she eventually fell to Colby sophomore Camilla di Galoma. Karthik took the first game against her higher-rated opponent 8-11. But di Galoma fought back to claim the second game 13-11 through a tiebreak and then took the lead by winning the third game 11-9. Karthik forced the match to a deciding game after she claimed the fourth game 11-6. In a tough fifth game for Karthik – indicative of how close the match was – di Galoma emerged on top in the deciding game by a score of 11-9, snagging the match win from Karthik and denying the Jumbos a win on the day.

In the sixth position, Colby sophomore Elise O’Brien came out victorious against first-year Chista Irani 11-4, 11-2, 11-5. No. seven sophomore Gabrielle Salomon was unable to reverse the trend, losing 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 to the Mules’ junior Caroline Pelham.

First-year Isabella Libassi was defeated by Colby first-year Lily Wain. Libassi narrowly lost the first game 11-9. The match went downhill from there for Libassi, who was unable to keep up against her opponent, as Wain only allowed Libassi six points in the next two games and claimed the win. Colby junior Florence Robinson put the icing on in the ninth spot, beating Tufts first-year Lily Hayes 11-5, 11-3, 11-4.

“Colby is a very good team, and they’re ranked above us,” Karthik said. “But I think that our team played well on Saturday and every player worked very hard on [the] court despite the result.”

Jafry agreed, adding that despite the defeat, there were valuable lessons for the team.

“We lost to Colby, but it was a good, productive loss,” Jafry said. “I saw a lot of my teammates go down fighting, while also working on improving certain parts of our own game.”

Not letting that loss affect its confidence, Tufts took home those lessons from the Colby loss and translated them into results on Monday as their game improved with a 7-2 victory over the Boston College Eagles. The Jumbos racked up seven consecutive match wins to claim their final game before the NESCAC Championships. Stanco led off the Tufts effort as she beat first-year Sara Rimmler 11-4, 11-7, 12-10. Jafry then followed up with an 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 victory over senior Caroline Whelan. Her teammates continued the surge as Burns, Karthik, Meggitt, Irani and Salomon all swept their matches in the third through seventh positions.

The closest-fought match of those was between Salomon and senior Caroline Kulig in the seventh position. Salomon and Kulig swapped 11-4 wins in the first two games, but Salomon then had to fight from behind after losing the third game 11-6, and staved off  Kulig in the fourth game, winning 12-10 in the tiebreak. With the momentum swinging back in Salomon’s favor, she claimed the final game 11-8.

Tufts sought a clean sweep after winning the first seven, but that was not to be. Libassi lost her tightly contested match against Eagles senior Katherine Neuberger, despite claiming the first game in a tiebreak 15-13. She eventually fell to Neuberger in the next three games by scores of 11-5, 11-9, 11-6. Sophomore Nellie Harvey also lost her match to her Eagle opponent in four games in the ninth position.

The Jumbos look to swing the momentum they built up with Monday night’s victory into the first round of the NESCAC Championships, which starts on Friday at Trinity. The 10th-seeded Jumbos look to upset the seventh-seeded Bates Bobcats on Friday evening.

“We had a solid win over Boston College. It was a good match to have before this upcoming weekend,” Jafry said. “The defeat by Colby has really only improved each of us, as does every competitive match we have. So, as far as going into this weekend, both the BC and Colby matches will benefit us.”