Tufts undone by Bates, bounces back with two victories

Senior Rohan Gupte prepares to hit a backhand shot in Tufts' 6–3 loss to Middlebury in the Gantcher Center on April 8. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The No. 15 Tufts men’s tennis team registered a 2–1 record on the road this weekend. Tufts fell 7–2 to No. 24 Bates in a high-stakes NESCAC matchup on Friday. Yet, the Jumbos fired back in two non-conference contests, routing Rensselaer 6–3 on Saturday and subduing Skidmore by the same scoreline on Sunday.

After losing to the Bobcats, the Jumbos (9–5, 2–4 NESCAC) will likely miss a berth in the conference tournament for the second consecutive year, making the defeat especially disappointing. Still, Tufts stormed into Saturday with newfound resolve, defeating No. 27 Rensselaer (12–3), 6–3.

After establishing a 2–1 lead in doubles, the Jumbos booked four of the six singles matches to clinch the victory. Tufts sophomore Nathan Niemiec dismissed Rensselaer first-year co-captain Andrew Imrie 6–4, 6–0 in second singles, while senior co-captain Danny Coran cruised to a comfortable 6–3, 6–2 victory over senior co-captain McKinley Grimes in fifth singles.

Coran later revealed the crafty tactics he relied on to break down Grimes.

“I was playing a big hitter — [Grimes was] hitting really heavy shots,” Coran said. “[But] I was more consistent. I threw in some slices and off-speed balls. It ended up working, and I felt pretty good throughout the match.”

First-year Boris Sorkin (6–4, 6–3) and sophomore Ben Biswas (7–5, 6–2) also won their respective singles matches for the Jumbos in the visitors’ win.

The following day, Tufts downed No. 26 Skidmore (11–5), 6–3. The Jumbos built an early lead in doubles, as the sophomore duo of Niemiec and Zach Shaff inched past junior Travis Leaf and first-year Suraj Mahtani, 9–8, in the second spot. Biswas and sophomore Bershtein added to Tufts’ advantage by besting sophomores Jack McClaren and Jason Keye, 8–6, in third doubles.

Shaff’s success continued in singles. The Allentown, Penn. native was victorious in a tight first-set tiebreak against McClaren before soundly sealing the second in fourth singles, 7–6, 6–1. At No. 3 singles, Carl-Herman Grant rallied past Leaf despite dropping the second set with a lengthy third-set tiebreak, 6–3, 2–6, 11–9.

Following the team’s tough loss to Bates, Coran was pleased with its performances over the rest of the weekend.

“I was really proud with how we bounced back,” Coran said. “It was a complete turnaround. We played Tufts tennis again with high energy and enthusiasm. [Our] guys were yelling from court to court.”

The Jumbos lacked that energy in Friday’s match against the Bobcats (7–7, 5–3 NESCAC) in Lewiston, Maine, which held major postseason implications. Coran expressed that the team came out flat at the beginning of the match.

“We didn’t come out with the energy and intensity we typically do,” he said. “In the end, it was just not enough energy and fight, but we give a lot of credit to Bates [for] being the better team.”

The hosts drew first blood, with senior co-captain Ben Rosen and sophomore Jacob Kauppila downing the Jumbos’ duo of Grant and senior Zain Ali, 8–2, in No. 1 doubles. However, Sorkin and senior Rohan Gupte fired back in second doubles to level the score, registering a hard-fought 8–5 victory over senior co-captain Josh Leiner and junior Josh Quijano.

In third doubles, Bates bit back with an 8–5 win of its own, as junior Duane Davis and first-year Alex Kennedy took down Bershtein and Niemiec.

The Bobcats continued to ride the momentum from their 2–1 lead, winning five of the six singles showdowns. Tufts’ lone victory came in the third spot, where Sorkin split sets against Leiner before ultimately slipping past in a third-set tiebreak (6–4, 2–6, 10–7).

However, Bates was dominant throughout much of the singles play, sweeping all five of its victories. Shaff’s battle against sophomore Jacob Eisenberg was the most competitive of those matches at 7–5, 6–4.

Niemiec noted that the Bobcats’ experience on the courts at Merrill Indoor Gymnasium played a huge role in their success. Since Tufts’ Gantcher Center has a relatively slow surface, the team had to adjust to Bates’ fast play.

“We struggled to keep up with the fast pace of the indoor courts,” Niemiec said.

After the Jumbos’ long stretch on the road (their last home match came on April 8), they will look forward to returning home for their final two matches of the regular season, both against NESCAC opponents.

Niemiec emphasized that despite the disappointment from the weekend, the Jumbos are eager to close the season on a high note.

“Everyone is really excited,” he said. “We’re looking forward to this weekend. Everyone’s excited to get out there and give everything they have.”

Tufts will face off against No. 2 Bowdoin (14–1, 5–1 NESAC) on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Jumbos have matched up well against the Polar Bears over the last couple of years, beating them 5–4 in 2016 and falling by the same scoreline last season. On Sunday, Tufts will host Colby (8–5, 3–4 NESCAC) at 10 a.m. for the team’s Senior Day.