Men’s tennis competed at the ITA Regional Tournament on Oct. 1 at Williams College. There, two brackets of 64 were created (singles and doubles) to vie for early season honors. Tufts sent three singles players, juniors Zain Ali and Rohan Gupte and sophomore Ethan Chen along with three doubles teams.
The doubles teams were Ali and Gupte, first-years Zach Shaff and Nathan Niemiec and Chen and first-year Benjamin Biswas. Ali and Chen both failed to make it out of the first round in singles, losing in the two and three sets respectively, and Chen and Biswas fell to a Wesleyan team 8-5. The other doubles teams found considerably more success and made it to the third round of play.
Rival Middlebury placed two teams in the doubles bracket semifinals and one player in the singles bracket semifinals, while Bowdoin was able to place one team in the doubles bracket semifinals. Early matches against the two schools, which have the potential to serve as the Jumbos’ toughest competition, provide valuable experience for the entire roster.
In the third round, Gupte and Ali lost 8-2 to a pair from Bowdoin, while Schaff and Nemeic lost their quarterfinal play in 8-1 to their opponents from Middlebury.
The main takeaway from the weekend was the standard of play required to win a conference title in the spring. While it was not explicitly an all-NESCAC affair at Williams, only NESCAC teams remained in competition through the quarterfinals in the singles and doubles brackets. The Jumbos now have a better understanding of what it will take to compete in the conference this season.
The story of the preseason carried into Tufts’ performances at Williams, with a Tufts team looking to make the most of its fall schedule while battling injuries of older players and a still-developing first-year class. With significant upperclassman contributors either not competing, like senior tri-captain Ben Battle, or hampered by persisting injuries, like Ali and Gupte, the fall expectations were tempered.
“Coming back off my injury was a refresher for me,” Gupte told the Daily in an electronic message. “I know that I have to work twice as hard to be back to where I was before. I feel like I need to play more matches in order to get back to the level at which I was playing before. With fall season ending in a few weeks hopefully my teammates and I can practice hard and end the season on a positive note.”
According to Chen, the performance of the first-year class has thus far surpassed expectations, with a strong showing two weeks ago in lower singles flights and a pair of first-years representing well in their doubles performance on Saturday. It will be up to the juniors and seniors to take up the mantle come spring time to lead Tufts through a tough NESCAC schedule.
“[It was a] really impressive performance [by the first-years],” Chen said. “They came up against a very strong Bates team in the second round, two upperclassmen, [so] to come out with a win is really big.”
The Jumbos have two more tournaments of the fall season: the Bates Invitational this weekend and the MIT Invitational the following weekend. The upcoming games will be crucial for the Jumbos who need a strong showing to continue their build toward the NESCAC championship in the spring.
Tufts, hungry to prove it belongs with other top programs in the nation, can only do so by toppling conference rivals like defending champions Bowdoin and perennial powerhouse Middlebury .
“We’re looking to continue this upward trend,” Chen said.