Promising season for Jumbos culminates in rough make-or-break weekend at NESCACs

The men's squash team faced off against MIT on Jan. 27 at the Zesiger Squash Courts. Alex Knapp / The Tufts Daily Archive

The men’s squash team had a disappointing series of matches in the opening days of the NESCAC tournament this weekend. Tufts finished the weekend without a win as they exited the tournament, having lost tough matches against Amherst in the opening round and against Conn. College and Hamilton in the consolation rounds.

Following a 9-0 win against Boston College last week, Tufts was looking forward to the tournament in order to mint a winning streak. The anticipation for the tournament was tangible.

“We are looking at this tournament super optimistically and looking forward to Amherst,” sophomore Alec Goodrich said after the win against Boston College.

Debuting at No. 9 in the NESCAC ranking, an improvement on Tufts’ No. 11 ranking in the NESCAC tournament last year, the Jumbos entered the tournament confident. Tufts, which entered the tournament with a 7-5 record in the season and several wins over NESCAC teams already under its belt, saw beating No. 8 ranked Amherst as an attainable feat, albeit a challenging one.

That hope soon diminished though in the face of a Lord Jeff squad that came out strong against the Jumbos, refusing to surrender a single matchup and winning the match 9-0. First-year Brett Raskopf was the lone Jumbo on the day to avoid getting swept in straight sets, winning the first game 11-9 in the fifth position but ultimately falling in four games to the Lord Jeffs’ Darian Ehsani.

“As a team, we were pretty amped to play in the NESCAC tournament, and we knew our match against Amherst was going to be a battle,” junior captain Daniel Fischer told the Daily in an email. “We unfortunately conceded all nine matches to them, but [their] guys played hard, and sometimes the results just don’t go your way.”

Following the loss, Tufts competed in the consolation bracket in the tournament and faced both Conn. College and Hamilton on the Wesleyan courts on Saturday.

The Jumbos entered Saturday’s matches having previously and decisively beaten both the Conn. College Camels and the Hamilton Continentals earlier in the season. But, perhaps still reeling from the hard loss from the previous day, they were unable to repeat those performances this weekend.

The No. 11-seeded Camels faced the Jumbos first in the consolation round, and although the Jumbos entered ranked 27th nationally to the Camels 29th in the latest poll, the Camels managed to pull off the 5-4 upset.

The Jumbos started the match from behind as sophomore Braden Chiulli fell in four games in the first position. But first-year Alan Litman, playing in the second spot for Tufts, won a hard-fought match to pull the Jumbos even. First-year Imran Trehan and Goodrich won in the sixth and seventh positions to keep Tufts in it, but it was still not enough after the Camels secured the win of the eighth position matchup. Sophomore John Patrick was perhaps the highlight of the match, battling through five full games in order to secure a victory for the Jumbos in the ninth position, though it did not change the result. 

“I was impressed at how high the intensity level was within the matches, and I don’t think we deserved to lose both matches,” Fischer told the Daily in an email. “Shout out to John Patrick who won 17-15 in the fifth game of a brutal match against Connecticut College.”

In a close 5-4 defeat to Hamilton, Tufts’ second consolation match somewhat mirrored its first against Conn. College. Both Litman and Trehan earned wins for the Jumbos again in the second and sixth positions, with Litman coming out on top of a five-set battle and Trehan sweeping his opponent. Raskopf and sophomore Sandeep Rishi contributed wins to Tufts’ cause in the fifth and seventh positions as well. But the Continentals were able to pull off several straight-game wins of their own and just edged the Jumbos for the win.

The team declined to comment further on the matches this weekend, instead focused on the future.

“[Looking forward], we can reflect about what we did wrong, but what matters is the next two weeks of practice,” Fischer wrote. “We need to refocus and get ready for nationals at Yale.”

The losses leave the Jumbos with a 7-8 record overall and force them to refocus their strategy leading up to nationals the weekend after next. In order to build morale, the team has fallen back on its small size for practices and cultivated a tight-knit mentality to prepare for its season finale. With a team comprised entirely of first-years and sophomores, save for juniors Fischer and Austin James Brush, the Jumbos rely more on work ethic than experience.

Tufts next hosts Brandeis at its home Belmont Hill courts on Tuesday at 8 p.m.