Tufts took to the road on Saturday for a matchup against No. 11 Wesleyan and returned home Sunday for a competition against No. 3 Middlebury on the Voute Courts. After two NESCAC victories in the previous week, this weekend saw the Jumbos take their first two conference losses of the spring season. The Middlebury Panthers won their match 7-2 while the Wesleyan Cardinals earned an 8-1 victory.
The Jumbos, who started the spring season in March with a 5-2 record during play in California, are now 3-2 in the month of April. They fall to 3-2 in the NESCAC and 8-4 overall.
Amid the weekend’s mixed weather, Tufts welcomed Middlebury to Medford on Sunday. While the Jumbos played the Middlebury Panthers — one of the top ranked teams in Div. III — close throughout doubles and singles competition, Middlebury edged out Tufts over the course of the day and ended up taking home a definitive victory. Just as they did in the Wesleyan match the day before, Tufts played its opponent tightly but could not quite break through to swing their singles matches in the team’s favor.
“We just ran into some good teams at the wrong time,” senior tri-captain Nick Cary told the Daily in an email. “We still competed well, and some of the matches were closer than what the final score indicated, but it verifies going forward how tough the NESCAC is and how more critical the next few weeks will be for us.”
Tufts actually started the day in the lead after taking two out of the three doubles matches. At the No. 1 pairs position, Cary and sophomore Rohan Gupte played Middlebury senior quad-captain Ari Smolyar and sophomore Noah Farrell down to the wire before eventually pulling out a 9-8 (10) win. The thrilling match was paired with another victory (9-7) at No. 2 doubles for senior Nik Telkedzhiev and sophomore Griffin Brockman. Though senior Jay Glickman and sophomore Zain Ali fell in the third doubles matchup, Tufts was still on top over the first section of play.
“The tiebreaks that we won at No.1 doubles and No.2 singles demonstrated our team’s ability to execute under pressure,” Glickman told the Daily in an email. “Tennis is a very mental sport, and when sets come down to a few points, the player that is stronger mentally usually wins. Our team has a lot of players who play well under pressure, and as we continue to encounter pressure situations during the season, this skill will pay dividends for us.”
Middlebury, however, regained control in singles play. The Panthers won all six matches, despite Tufts nearly pulling out victories on multiple occasions. Gupte fell in No. 1 singles against Farrell, the country’s top ranked singles player, in straight sets. Though Glickman waged and won a hard-fought battle in the first set of the No. 2 singles match, taking it with a tiebreak score of 7-6 (14), his opponent Smolyar secured the final two sets 6-1, 6-0 to take the match.
In the other singles spots, sophomore William de Quant of Middlebury won the deciding match at No. 4 against Ali. Ali won the first set 4-6, but dropped the next two, giving Middlebury an overall advantage that Tufts could not overcome. Sophomore Danny Coran of Tufts also took his opponent to three sets in the No. 6 spot, narrowly losing 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. Senior tri-captain Rob Jacobson and Telkedzhiev lost in the No. 5 and No. 3 positions, respectively.
The final 7-2 match score does not indicate how close the Jumbos were to breaking through and gaining the advantage they needed for a win.
“Losses are always tough, but our match against Middlebury was a lot closer than the score indicated. We were up 2-1 after doubles, and we secured the first set on three of the six singles courts,” Glickman said. “If each of those courts had closed out the second set, we would’ve beaten Middlebury 5-4. There is a reason why they are the No. 3 ranked team in the country, though. They were the more resilient team on Sunday, and ended up coming back and winning each of those matches in three sets.”
Despite the tough loss to the Panthers, Tufts proved their strength as a team with a lot of encouraging moments of play.
“There were more bright spots from the Midd match I think,” Cary said. “Our goal was to make them earn the victory, and we have to give credit to them for doing just that. Our doubles was definitely a positive sign from Sunday, and we were in there in most of the singles matches at the start.”
Most importantly, with an effort like what the team put together against Middlebury, it will now have the experience for future contests that are as closely contested.
“Most of the time that [type of play] will lead to a much closer final score than what happened on Sunday, so going forward — if we find ourselves in a similar position — we know it falls on us to finish the match and not let whoever we play back in it,” Cary said.
The day before, Tufts visited Middletown, Conn. to challenge another nationally recognized team and NESCAC rival, Wesleyan. The Cardinals won most matches by comfortable margins, with no matchup in singles competition reaching three sets. The Cardinals improved to 5-4 overall and 1-2 in the NESCAC.
Glickman took on the national No. 14 singles player, sophomore Steven Chen, in the No. 2 spot and fell 6-1, 6-2. The lone victory for Tufts on Saturday came from Coran in No. 6 singles, who bested senior Michael King of Wesleyan 6-2, 6-2. Other matchups included Brockman and Telkedzhiev, who fell to Chen and Wesleyan junior Michael Liu 8-2 in No. 2 doubles, and Jacobson going down 6-1, 6-1 in No. 4 singles against Cardinals’ first-year Joachim Samson.
Though this past weekend did not produce favorable results for the Jumbos, both Glickman and Cary stressed that the team’s confidence has not wavered and it looks forward to continued preparation to take on some of the conference’s and nation’s top teams.
The next match for Tufts is against local opponent No. 32 Brandeis University. The Jumbos and the Brandeis Judges will square off at the Voute Courts tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.