The men’s tennis team unloaded a 12-year-old burden this weekend when it defeated men’s tennis powerhouse and 2014 NESCAC champion Amherst for the first time since 2004. Though the Amherst Purple and White has been one of the conference’s top teams for many years and was ranked No. 8 in Div. III heading into the match, the Jumbos upset them at Amherst by a solid 7-2 margin.
Tufts followed up Saturday’s win with a pair of 8-1 wins in Connecticut last night, splitting up its squad to simultaneously beat Conn. College and the Coast Guard Academy at both schools’ home courts.
The Jumbos — ranked No. 17 in the nation and clearly the underdogs against the Amherst Purple and White — improved to 8-2 overall in the season and 3-0 in NESCAC play and are tied for first place in the conference with the defending NESCAC champions Middlebury, ranked third in the nation. The Purple and White fell to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in NESCAC play, while Conn. College fell to 3-7 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
The win over Amherst took center stage this week, though, firing up the team as they gear up for an April schedule packed with NESCAC matches.
“In my three years on the team, I don’t think I’ve seen such collective excitement after a win [as] this one,” senior tri-captain Nick Cary said. “In past matches against Amherst I think we tended to be almost intimidated by their on-paper talent, but we out-competed them and had a larger team presence then them, which made the win that much more satisfying.”
Tufts started the meet well, going 2-1 in doubles play. Senior Jay Glickman and sophomore Zain Ali claimed an 8-3 victory against the nation’s No. 10 pair from Amherst, senior Ben Fife and first-year Zach Bessette.
Tufts’ other doubles victory came courtesy of senior Nik Telkedzhiev and sophomore Griffin Brockman, who outlasted their Amherst opponents in a 9-7 overtime battle.
The team then secured the win by going 5-1 in singles play. The Jumbos got off to a shaky start, losing in the first spot. But in the No. 2 spot, Glickman made a fierce comeback despite losing the first set, eventually winning 5-7, 7-5, 6-1. Cary said he was impressed by Glickman’s resilience.
“[Glickman’s] match was actually right next to mine, and it was awesome to see him stay tough the way he did,” Cary said. “He lost five straight games to lose the first 5-7 and was down in the second 5-2 but didn’t waiver at all in his play and ended up winning.”
Also battling to three sets in the No. 3 spot, sophomore Rohan Gupte won his match 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, while Cary was up in the fourth spot, claiming a dominant 6-2, 6-1 victory. Cary said that he had previously played against his opponent Amherst senior Aaron Revzin and felt more prepared this time around.
“I just tried to play comfortably and not give him easy points,” Cary said. “I played him last year and got beat pretty bad, but I had a game plan and sure enough it worked out very well.”
Senior tri-captain Rob Jacobson made a nice comeback in the No. 5 spot, winning 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. In the final singles match, Ali was in a harsh back and forth battle against Fife but ultimately claimed victory with scores of 6-2, 5-7, 7-6.
“We went into the match with a lot of confidence after a great week of practice, and we believed that if we played our best tennis we would win,” first-year Ross Kamin said. “We were the more energized team and got off to a good start and ran with the momentum.”
Cary said that he believes this victory was a return to form its momentum after the tough loss that the team suffered to Redlands on Sunday, March 26 at the end of the Jumbos’ spring break trip to California.
“I think at the end of the California trip, we had been playing so well that we were caught off guard against Redlands and didn’t quite have the same strategic, tough mentality [that] we had against Amherst,” he said. “Every player still fought and competed very well in both, but there was an extra energy and urgency against Amherst. We had four singles matches go to a third set, and we won all of them. We didn’t see that in California, and I think going forward we now know that, even deep into a match, we can still play well.”
Cary, speaking before last night’s matches in Connecticut, was confident that the win would serve as a springboard for the rest of the season for more success against tough conference opponents.
“I think we will start to play more confidently after this, knowing when we go up against other top ranked NESCAC teams that we can not only compete with them but beat them similarly to how we played against Amherst,” he said.
Sure enough, the team followed up the Amherst win by handling two different schools in New London, Ct. at the same time last night, with 15 of the 18 players on Tufts’ roster getting involved in the action.
In the Conn. College matchup, Tufts got help from more than just its normal contributors, with sophomores Danny Coran and Garret Weinstein pitching in wins in singles play. Coran then teamed up with senior Roy Peleg to contribute another win in doubles. The only matchup Tufts lost was the No. 5 singles position, where sophomore Justin Brogan retired before the first set was over.
In a similar storyline across town, junior Kevin Kelly, another infrequent contributor who got to see some playing time against Conn. College, won a singles match and a doubles match alongside partner and classmate Austin Bendetson. Again, the Jumbos dropped just one singles match in the 8-1 win.
The Jumbos have built up some serious momentum since coming back from spring break with the three straight impressive victories. They’ll need to carry that momentum into this weekend as they head into their toughest competition of the season so far — a conference matchup against the Middlebury Panthers on Sunday. The Panthers are currently ranked third in Div. III, but then again, the Jumbos have already shown their ability to upset top 10 teams.