The men’s tennis team got into form quickly to start its spring campaign, posting a strong 5-2 record during their California trip over spring break. The team beat Vassar College 7-2, Whitman College 5-4, UC Santa Cruz 8-1, Stevens College 8-1 and Colby 7-2. The team only dropped a pair of matches to the University of Chicago and Redlands College by 8-1 and 6-3 margins, respectively.
The team opened its spring season against Vassar on Saturday, March 19 at the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps facilities in Claremont, Cal. and came away with its first win in a dual-meet. After losing two out of the three doubles matches, the Jumbos swept all six singles matches to come back, taking five of those six in straight sets. Senior Nick Cary stood out in the season opener, earning the team’s only doubles win along with sophomore Rohan Gupte, and thrashing his Brewer opponent Nick Lee 6-0, 6-1 in the fifth spot. Vassar fell to 5-9 with the loss.
Tufts returned to Claremont the next day to play Whitman College, ranked No. 18 going into the match, while Tufts was ranked 22nd. The Jumbos took a critical 2-1 lead in points after the doubles matches and then went 3-3 in singles to hold on for the upset win. Gupte won a crucial match against Whitman’s Phillip Locklear, ranked 34th in the nation for Div. III, earning a 6-2, 7-5 win. Senior tri-captain Rob Jacobson battled through three sets to earn the singles victory that clinched the win, coming out on top 7-6, 1-6, 6-3.
“Against Whitman, which was a team ranked higher than us, we were confident we could win, and after a slow start during doubles going 1-2, we were able to bounce back and win four of the singles matches,” Ethan Chen, a first-year, said. “[It was] definitely a great win for us in the beginning of spring break and showed us that we were a tough competitor.”
The third match of the trip was against UC Santa Cruz later that day, but the Tufts squad didn’t seem to show much fatigue. The Jumbos swept the doubles matches and went 5-1 in the singles matches against the Banana Slugs to cruise to an 8-1 victory. UC Santa Cruz was ranked 30th going into the meet and dropped to 3-5 with the loss while Tufts improved to 3-0 after just two days of work.
Tufts headed out to Palm Desert, Cal. on Tuesday, March 22 to face Stevens College — who entered the match ranked 25th nationally — and Tufts stayed undefeated, knocking off their third top 30 team of the trip. The Stevens Ducks went 2-1 in doubles play, but then the Jumbos had a strong 5-1 in singles matches to pull off the win. Two Jumbos, Gupte and senior Jay Glickman, improved their records to 4-0 in singles play after the first four matches of the spring.
Tufts’ perfect record only lasted so long though, as the team finally suffered its first loss of the trip and the spring season in its fifth match against the University of Chicago on Wednesday. The Jumbos’ only victory against them came in the third doubles match where Glickman and Jacobson won 8-5, but the powerful Maroons ended the Jumbos’ win streak with the 8-1 result. UChicago entered the match ranked fourth in the nation and improved to 12-1 after handing Tufts its first loss. The Maroons featured four nationally ranked players as well as a doubles team ranked third in the nation that beat the overmatched pair of Cary and Gupte.
“It was a lot closer than the score says,” Ross Kamin, a first-year, said. “We definitely could have turned around a few of the matches and it would’ve been a whole different turnout. Overall it was good to see that we are right there with some of the top teams in the nation.”
Chen agreed with Kamin, explaining that the 8-1 score was not indicative of the actual match level.
“We were very much in the match with a lot of three-setters, and we just came up against a team that is used to winning and being tough, and we were a little worn down and weren’t able to grab some of the really close matches going on,” Chen said.
Tufts bounced back last Thursday to earn its final victory of the trip against NESCAC foe Colby in the team’s conference opener. The Jumbos, playing at an exciting Indian Wells venue, took two out of the three doubles matches and claimed victory in five of the six singles matches to earn their first NESCAC win and drop the Mules to 1-7 on the season. With his latest victory, Glickman improved his singles record to 11-2 in meet play on the season. As Colby was the only conference opponent Tufts faced in California over the break, the Jumbos currently sit at 1-0 in the NESCAC.
Tufts was unable to cap off its spring break trip with a victory though, suffering its second loss of the season to Redlands College on Saturday. While the Jumbos started strong with a 2-1 lead after the doubles matches, the Bulldogs quickly took over, going 5-1 in singles matches to take a 6-3 win. The Bulldogs headed into the match ranked 15th and improved to 13-3 with the win.
Over the seven games, the Jumbos showed their ability to easily handle similarly ranked or lower-ranked opponents, but struggled against highly ranked teams like UChicago and Redlands.
“I think we’re satisfied overall with our spring break,” Kamin said. “We came away with some good wins, and we were able to all improve throughout the week, and we have some good momentum bringing us into the regular season.”
“I think the team was definitely happy we got off to a strong start to the season, and 5-2 was definitely a step in the right direction,” Chen said.
Tufts looks to stay undefeated in NESCAC play with its next match at Amherst this Saturday.