On Saturday, the No. 29 Tufts men’s squash team defeated No. 25 Wesleyan handily, winning by a margin of five matches, 7–2. Underscoring the Jumbos’ dominance, first-year Daniel Hutt dropped just nine points to his Cardinals opponent in a three-set sweep.
“Daniel is a freshman who has now had two convincing wins,” coach Joe Raho said. “He has been really beating his opponents really soundly. He’s been playing fantastically.”
In addition to Hutt’s commendable performance, Tufts’ top-seeded player, sophomore Raghav Kumar, also played a remarkable, back-and-forth match against Wesleyan first-year Sean Choi. After taking the first set 12–10, Kumar dropped the next two to Choi, 6–11 and 8–11, respectively. Kumar, a native of Redwood City, Calif. rebounded, however, winning the penultimate set 11–7 before finishing off Choi 11–9 in the fifth set. Junior Cameron Ewan also contributed a victory — his third of the season following wins against Hamilton and Bard — in the seventh slot.
“[Cameron’s] been showing a tremendous amount of heart on court,” Raho said. “He’s really pushing through to the end of his long matches. I really have respect for what he’s been doing.”
Five other Jumbos won their matches on Saturday. In the third and fifth spots, respectively, junior Alan Litman (11–7, 10–12, 11–9, 11–5) and sophomore Connor Wind (11–7, 11–1, 11–4) defeated their Cardinals opponents. Leading 3–2 after the top five matches, Tufts overwhelmed the hosts in the lower matches to grab a convincing victory. Hutt, Ewan, junior captain Aidan Porges (11–8, 11–9, 11–9) and senior Josh Lee (11–4, 11–4, 11–4) combined to drop just one set among them.
Tufts was, of course, upbeat after defeating a Wesleyan team ranked four spots higher by the College Squash Association. The victory carried additional meaning, though, since the Jumbos had been winless in their previous eight matches to the Cardinals, a streak dating back to 2010.
“We’re definitely proud of our first NESCAC win, and we were determined to prove ourselves and show that we can beat teams ranked higher than us,” Lee said. “We didn’t want to lose in those five-setters anymore, so we had a lot more sprints in practices than we used to. Before the match, we all came together and knew that it was really important.”
As Raho alluded to, the Jumbos’ victory is partially a product of their revised training regimen. After a 5–4 loss to Hamilton on Nov. 18, the team decided to alter its practice schedule slightly to produce better results.
“After the Hamilton match, we realized we couldn’t take any team for granted, that we needed to give our best every practice and in every game,” Lee said. “The intensity has been up. We changed our schedule so that we also have more lifts during the week to get more fit and to continue the process of getting stronger every week.”
With his team having won three straight matches, Raho is pleased with his players’ progression. The rookie coach is hopeful that the team will maintain its recent trajectory.
“Every match continues to get better, and we are trending in the right direction … so things take time,” Raho said. “[The losses to Hamilton and Amherst] were tough … but I think [the team] worked really hard to prepare for the Wesleyan match. Beating these teams requires focus, diligence, practice and being calm and composed.”
With a record of 3–2, the Jumbos are heading into the winter break with a positive mindset. The team will reconvene after the new year for a week of squash in the California sunshine, which it hopes will act as a springboard into a busy January schedule. Tufts faces No. 26 Hobart in Palo Alto, Calif. on Jan. 10 before taking on the hosts, No. 32 Stanford, the following day.
“They are both very good, but very winnable matches,” Raho said. “I emphasize [that the players] keep pushing on this break, running, lifting and hitting the ball because we’re going to come back [on] Jan. 6, and we have three days to get ready for two tough teams.”
According to Lee, the Jumbos will not want for motivation over the holidays, as they pursue both personal and team-wide improvement.
“Right now we are just trying to stay in shape because … that is one thing that really unites us, to know that we are seriously trying to become the best team we can be by the end of the season,” he said. “We’re pretty united in that goal. We all take care of ourselves, and we want to improve individually.”