Jumbos off to hottest start in program history

The Jumbos are off to an unprecedented start to their season. After wins against Bard College and Vassar College on Dec. 4, the Jumbos head into the holiday break with an undefeated record of  7-0. Tufts has shown in early performances that it has what it takes to make noise in the College Squash Association (CSA) and perhaps achieve an unprecedented NESCAC championship win.

In their three games against their Bard opponents, first-years Claire Davidson and Sahar Tirmizi held their opponents to three and two points, respectively. However, Tirmizi faced a much closer match later that day against Vassar junior Cherylann Mucciolo. Tirmizi won that match 11-0, 11-5, 11-7. Davidson did not compete against Vassar but fellow first-year Catherine Shanahan did, winning her match 11-6, 11-0, 11-2 to secure two wins on Sunday.

Tufts has already defeated some of last years toughest challenges including St. Lawrence (6-3), Hamilton (6-3) and Colby (5-4), all ranked schools, with St. Lawrence and Hamilton both sitting higher than Tufts.  Tufts is ranked No. 21 in the country in the most recent CSA rankings from Nov. 27. The Jumbos have moved up one spot from their preseason ranking and two spots from their ranking at the end of last season. They are only six wins shy of matching their win total from last season when they finished 13-9. A big factor in their early success has been the work put in by the players before their matches.

“The training sessions, especially the preseason training and also the practice sessions and warmups have been pretty effective and have a lot to do with our general success,” sophomore Sahana Karthik said.

Sophomore Chista Irani attributes their dominance to unbreakable chemistry.

“This year the team’s dynamic is one of the main reasons why we have performed so well in the first half of the season,” Irani told the Daily in an email.

Another bright spot for the Jumbos comes from a strong first-year class, featuring Davidson, Tirmizi, Shanahan and Katherine Deveaux. Davidson was named the Harrow Sports College Squash Player of the Week last week and has an impressive record of 5-1 overall so far. In the team’s match against St. Lawrence, Davidson beat senior Emily Terry 11-9, 11-7, 3-11, 5-11, 11-7. Terry was ranked last season as one of the CSA’s top-80 players.

The team is very young, with no seniors and the bulk of team coming from the sophomore class. In addition, the team is currently without some of its juniors who are currently studying abroad. By comparison, last year’s team was composed of no juniors and only one senior, so the team is familiar with its current circumstances.

Karthik noted that the team’s first-years are very talented and committed.

“They’re definitely not inexperienced and they bring their own expectations and their own goals,” Karthik said. “We don’t really have to set an example because we learn from them just as much as they learn from us.”

The Jumbos will be looking to continue their undefeated streak after the long break.

When Tufts returns from the holiday hiatus on Jan. 13, it will take on two-time First Team All-American Laila Samy and Wesleyan as well as Haverford at a trimatch hosted by Wesleyan. The Jumbos enter a difficult stretch prior to the NESCAC championship that includes matches against Bates, Colby and Conn. College, ranked 16th, 23rd and 29th in the country, respectively. At the moment, the young team is focused on giving its all on the court and staying spirited as both a team and as individuals.

“The main goal is to keep up the focus and intensity in every practice as that really helps us prepare for some of our hardest matches,” Irani said.