The state of Jumbo athletics

(The Tufts Daily / Ben Kim) 04/28/2017 - Somerville/Medford - Hitter Casey Santos-Ocampo bats at the bottom of the second inning of the men's baseball home game against Bates on April 28th.

Tufts University is a Div. III athletic powerhouse. Last year, the Jumbos placed third in the 2016-17 Learfield Directors’ Cup with 926.75 points. The Directors’ Cup aggregates points for 18 different sports — nine women’s and nine men’s over all three athletic seasons to rank universities by athletic success. Tufts’ third place finish is the best in school history and builds on the previous best of fourth in 2015-16. Williams College and Washington University in St. Louis placed first and second with 1335.25 and 1227 points respectively.

Tufts has been gradually climbing the rankings of the Directors’ Cup. Since the Cup began in 1995-96, the Jumbos have appeared in the top 10 nine times, last year marking the fifth straight year that Tufts has been in the top 10.

Baseball Coach and Assistant Athletic Director John Casey credits Tufts’ success to a collaborative spirit in the athletics department.

“This is all about people, it always has been, and I think we have a tremendous coaching staff,” Casey said. “If you look around you see that our coaches actually have great relationships and care about each other. They want each other to win. There’s nobody saying ‘I’m bigger than anybody else.’ It’s a pretty cooperative environment and I think that goes a long way because we just want to give the kids the best experience we can.”

Tufts athletes are not just successful on the field, as the Jumbos boast plenty of academic All-Americans. The United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA) honored 23 Jumbo athletes in the spring and the men’s track program boasted the most honorees in Div. III. Across all Tufts sports, there were NESCAC All-Academic selections. Baseball’s Speros Varinos (LA ’17) was a repeat NESCAC Pitcher of the Year and three-time All-Academic selection over the course of his Tufts career.

“We tell our guys the most important thing is to graduate in four years and be sure you’re doing well in your studies,” Casey said. “But the other part is, this is your passion to play baseball. So we’ve got to make room for that. It’s just a balancing act. And I think it’s our job as coaches to put them in the best position to succeed. I think as a department, all the coaches are pretty much on the same page about that.”

Fall

Tufts completed the fall season ranked second only to Washington St. Louis. The Jumbos benefited from a national championship in men’s soccer, second place in field hockey, top ten finishes in women’s volleyball and women’s cross country and a 33rd place finish in men’s cross country.

Tufts soccer earned its second national championship in three years, defeating Calvin College 1–0 in overtime. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America tabbed coach Josh Shapiro and his staff as the National Coaching Staff of the Year for the 2016-17 season.

The women’s field hockey team came about as close to a national championship as possible, falling 2–1 in a penalty shootout to Messiah College after double-overtime. The Jumbos have been perennial contenders since their 2012 national championship. Last year’s team featured three Second Team All-Americans in Annie Artz (LA ’17) and seniors Ellexa Thomas and Mary Travers. Artz also received Academic All-American at-large honors.

After finishing 10–0 in NESCAC regular season play, Tufts volleyball was upset in the NESCAC Championship by Middlebury. They bounced back, making a deep run all the way to the national quarterfinals.

Led by Tim Nichols (LA ’17) and Luke O’Connor (LA ’17), who finished third and 20th respectively in the NCAA Championship, men’s cross country placed 33rd at nationals. Nichols made the 2017 Academic All-American Team and was named the USTFCCA National Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Winter

Tufts fell to third in the Directors’ Cup in the winter, as NESCAC rival Williams moved to second. A runner-up finish from Tufts women’s basketball added 90 points to the Jumbo total. Other contributing points were top ten finishes from men’s basketball and men’s swimming and diving, a 18th place finish from men’s track and field and top 50 performances for women’s swimming and diving and women’s track and field.

The 2016-17 season marked the fourth straight semi-finals berth for the women’s basketball team and second straight national finals game. Although the Jumbos weren’t able to take home the championship, two players, Michela North (LA ’17) and senior forward Melissa Baptista, earned All-American honors. Coach Carla Berube also led the USA U16 team to an Americas championship.

The men’s basketball team posted a 22–7 record in their 2016-17 campaign. Tufts made it to the third round of the playoffs before falling 87–80 to Babson, which went on to win the National Championship.

Coming into the national tournament seeded 14th, Tufts men’s swimming and diving outperformed expectations to snag a 10th place finish. All-American recognition included junior Kingsley Bowen, who picked up three All-American awards. Matt Rohrer (LA ’17) placed top eight in the 1-meter and 3-meter dive events to bring his total career All-American awards to six.

Tufts men’s track and field placed 16th at the national tournament. The Jumbos were led by Nichols, who took fifth in the 5,000–meter race and fourth in the 10,000-meter race. Junior Josh Etkind’s eighth place finish in the 110-meter hurdles earned him All-American honors. On the field, senior Stefan Duvivier placed third in the high jump for his first All-American honor.

Spring

In the spring, men’s lacrosse secured a ninth place finish while women’s tennis finished seventh nationally. Both men’s and women’s track and field added points to the Jumbos’ Directors’ Cup total. After winning the NESCAC championship, men’s baseball advanced to the national tournament. For an in-depth recap of spring sports, see Yuan Jun Chee’s “While we were away…” on page xx.


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