The Jumbos will be back on the courts again this weekend as they look to make use of a short fall season to put themselves in good stead for the spring. The men’s tennis team will travel up to Vermont this weekend to open their fall season at the first tournament of the year — the Middlebury Invitational.
Last season, the Jumbos booked a 10–6 record (3–5 NESCAC) to close the year ranked 18th in Div. III. Despite their top-20 ranking, it has been a somewhat underwhelming two years for the Jumbos, who have missed out on qualifying for the NESCAC Tournament in the past two seasons.
“[Missing out on qualifying] definitely serves as a lot of motivation,” senior co-captain Ross Kamin said. “The NESCAC is such a tough conference, but I think everyone knows our level is right there. We definitely want to get back there again.”
Junior co-captain Ethan Bershtein expressed how the team has been working even harder after not making the tournament for the second year in a row.
“It was disappointing in [the] sense we didn’t make [the] tourney, but we have a lot more guys now that are willing to put in more work, put in more practice, put in more time at the gym,” Bershstein said.
Led by Kamin — the lone senior on the team — and Bershtein, this year’s squad is backed mostly by first-years and sophomores. The Jumbos were successful after switching to a younger lineup late last year, which included a 3–1 record in their last four matches with victories over RPI, Skidmore and Colby.
“It’s exciting,” Kamin said. “The whole team dynamic is very different going from a class that started with six seniors to one with six [first-years]. They bring a new energy that rubs off on everyone and it’ll be exciting to see what they can do in matches.”
Though the team’s official season is in mid-March, the fall provides opportunities for player development and creating team chemistry.
“Individual results affect ranking [but] the biggest thing is building team chemistry and getting to know everyone,” Kamin said. “It leads to a productive off-season in lifts and fitness. Everyone works harder when they enjoy the company of their teammates.”
At last year’s Middlebury Invitational, several players captured titles and made deep runs. Junior Ben Biswas blitzed through the C singles flight, winning the final 6–3, 6–0 against junior Jack McClaren of Skidmore. Biswas carried his high-level of play into doubles, winning the B doubles flight 9–7 with Bershtein against sophomores Carl-Herman Grant and Boris Sorkin in an all-Jumbo final.
The women’s tennis team will also look forward to kicking off their fall season this weekend, competing at home on the Voute Tennis Courts in the Tufts Invitational. The team is once again led by NESCAC Coach of the Year Kate Bayard who is entering her 14th season at Tufts. The Jumbos will hope to build upon the success of last year, spearheaded by a strong senior class comprising Tomo Iwasaki and co-captains Mina Karamercan and Julia Keller. While the team will be the smallest since 2014–15, it will also feature plenty of fresh talent, with a core group of four first-years joining the squad.
Iwasaki is looking forward to get the team going again, especially in front of an expectant home crowd.
“We’re really excited to be able to play at home,” Iwasaki said. “[The first-years] have been working really hard and putting in their best effort and it’s a super great community.”
Last season, Tufts started out at the MIT Invitational, and gave opportunities to sophomores Kiara Rose and reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year Patricia Obeid, who featured in the singles and doubles tournaments respectively.
Once again, the Jumbos would be looking to refine their doubles’ pairings in time for the crucial spring season, something that they have always sought to do in the fall. Last year, this led to some success as the women’s tennis team had a stellar season in the spring, boasting a 13–7 overall record (6–3 NESCAC) and ending the year ranked No. 6 in Div. III. In the postseason, the Jumbos fell to No. 1-seeded Williams Ephs in the NESCAC Tournament semifinals. Despite this, the Jumbos were one of five NESCAC teams to qualify for the NCAA tournament. While Tufts comfortably defeated Rhode Island College 5–0 in the second round, it lost 3–5 to MIT in the NCAA Regional Finals. The team will no doubt be looking to make full use of the fall season to set the stage up for success again in the spring.
After this weekend, both teams will be back in action again in two weeks for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championships, which will see the men’s team return to Middlebury and the women’s team will travel to Williams.