Tufts’ men’s and women’s squash teams played their first slate of matches in the 2018–19 season before the recent Thanksgiving break. Both teams turned in impressive performances, crushing NESCAC rivals Wesleyan and Colby. After returning to campus, however, the men’s side was walloped by Harvard.
On Wednesday, No. 23 Tufts fell 8–1 to No. 2 Harvard. The Jumbos’ sole win came from sophomore Salik Awan, who defeated his opponent, senior Varoun Galati, 3–2 in a thrilling match in the ninth position. Down 2–1 after three sets, Awan fought back to win the last two sets, 11–8, 11–8. The loss dropped Tufts to 2–1 on the season, while Harvard improved to 2–0.
On Nov. 18, the then-No. 27 Jumbos defeated the then-No. 23 Colby Mules 5–4 for their second win in as many days, overcoming losses from their top two players, junior Raghav Kumar and first-year Konrad LaDow. Senior Alan Litman put on an impressive show against junior Jason Brodo in the fifth position, winning the first game 11–6. After Brodo responded with 11–9 and 11–7 victories in the second and third sets, Litman responded well with back-to-back 11–6 wins to close out the match.
Playing in the third position, first-year Marco Rodriguez fought for a well-earned win. Despite losing the first set 11–9, the Bryn Mawr, Pa. native took three straight (11–1, 11–4, 11–9) to wrap up the win over first-year Alex Kurtin. Senior co-captain Brett Raskopf and Awan swept their matches in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively, to clinch the Jumbos’ victory.
“Colby historically had beaten us pretty easily, and they are ranked four or five spots above us, so it was good for us to beat them 5–4,” Raskopf said. “It was an interesting match because we were up 5–1 and then they took the last three matches, so it ended up being a lot closer than it felt.”
The team took down another conference opponent, No. 31 Wesleyan, the day before in its first match of the season. Kumar defeated sophomore Sean Choi in a close four-setter (12–10, 11–5, 8–11, 13–11) in the top position, and Litman eviscerated senior Peter DeLalio in straight sets to key the Jumbos’ 8–1 win. Meanwhile, Rodriguez made a shining collegiate debut, beating senior co-captain Josh Lane 11–9, 11–5, 11–4, and Raskopf took an 11–5, 11–1, 11–6 victory in the eighth spot. Raskopf gave credit to Kumar for his impressive win, which was crucial to the Jumbos’ success.
“Shout out to Raghav Kumar, who played the No. 1 match,” Raskopf said. “It was a really, really tight match. He came out from the exhibition court and was able to beat their top player, so that was really good.”
Raskopf praised the team’s first-years for the crucial roles they played in the Jumbos’ first two wins.
“Marco Rodriguez and Konrad LaDow are playing really high in the ladder,” he said. “It can be tough for them because a lot of people are watching them and they are playing the best players. Marco is super mentally strong and does not seem to be fazed by the moment and works hard in practice. We are happy to see him get some wins this weekend.”
The Jumbos added five first-years this season but did not graduate any seniors, which has given the team great depth, according to Raskopf.
“This is a really big year for us because we have a lot of seniors who know that this is the best team that we’re going to be a part of at Tufts because of the addition of the [first-years],” Raskopf. “We get along really well as a team, practice intensity is high and everyone knows what individual parts of their game they want to work on.”
Like the men’s team, the women’s team defeated Wesleyan and Colby on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, respectively.
The Jumbos captured an 8–1 victory over the Mules thanks to outstanding performances from junior co-captain Davidson (11–4, 11–1, 11–3) and sophomore Julie Yeung (12–10, 11–5, 11–4) in the top two spots. Senior Sahana Karthik, played in the eighth position, allowing Colby sophomore D’Arcy Carlson to take only four games in the match, winning 11–3, 11–0, 11–1. First-year Megan Chen (11–4, 11–0, 11–3) and first-year Diya Sanghi (11–1, 11–2, 11–4) also turned in strong performances to send the Jumbos to victory.
“Beating Colby was also a huge NESCAC win for us,” Davidson said. “We had two [first-years], Diya Sanghi and Meghan Chen, playing in the top nine, and they both won their matches — that’s huge. They both played really well.”
The previous day, Tufts swept No. 20 Wesleyan in a match hosted by Harvard. Davidson notched a five-set victory in the No. 1 spot (11–5, 11–7, 9–11, 8–11, 12–10). Senior Hannah Burns won her fifth-position match 11–3, 11–4, 11–3, while Sanghi (11–6, 11–2, 11–6) and Chen (11–1, 11–2, 11–1) were victorious in their college debuts.
“It was a huge win for us and a big confidence booster for our very first match this season, especially because we had really close matches with [Wesleyan] last season,” Davidson said. “The fact we beat them 9–0 was huge.”
According to Davidson, the first-year Jumbos have made a seamless transition into both the team and the competition.
“We are a really close team,” Davidson said. “I think the [first-years] are integrating really well into our team.”
The women’s side will visit Middlebury on Saturday and Williams on Sunday. The Jumbos have not beaten the Panthers since an 8–1 victory in the 2007–08 season and have never defeated the Ephs, according to Davidson.
“They are very good NESCAC teams, but I’d say our best chance to ever beat them is with this team. We are really optimistic,” Davidson said.