Back-to-back matches over the weekend ended in disappointment for Tufts men’s and women’s squash teams, as both squads fell on consecutive days to Middlebury and Williams. Nonetheless, coach Joe Raho noted the teams’ optimism heading into the remainder of their seasons.
First-years Marco Rodriguez and Will Dewire recorded No. 23 Tufts’ only two victories in its 7–2 loss to No. 21 Williams on Sunday. Playing in the second position, Rodriguez led 8–11, 11–7, 11–7 against first-year Jacob Bassil before the Ephs’ player retired from the match. Meanwhile, Dewire defeated sophomore A.J. Solecki in a five-game thriller (5–11, 11–8, 12–10, 6–11, 11–8).
On Saturday, senior co-captain Brett Raskopf was the sole Jumbo to record a victory in the team’s match at No. 20 Middlebury. The New York, N.Y. native defeated sophomore Alex Giles in the ninth position in three straight 11–3 victories.
Other Jumbos showed flashes against their Panthers opponents. In the first position, junior Raghav Kumar took the third game from Middlebury junior Jacob Ellen but ultimately fell in four games (11–8, 11–8, 5–11, 11–1). Rodriguez, playing in the third slot, lost to junior co-captain Nick Bermingham in a tense four-game match (12–10, 10–12, 11–9, 11–5). In the sixth position, Dewire pushed sophomore John Epley in three close games, but Epley eventually emerged with an 11–9, 12–10, 11–6 victory.
Despite Tufts’ struggles, Raho expressed optimism in the men’s team’s ability to compete with Middlebury and Williams, should the teams face each other later in the season.
“I think that it’s possible that we could turn around both the results,” Raho said. “The men were close against Williams. We won two matches, but it easily could have been four. So all of a sudden, you take a result that was 7–2 and make it 5–4, and you know you’re right on the doorstep. I think it’s possible.”
Other first-year Jumbos performed well in losing efforts against Middlebury. In the second position, Konrad LaDow fell to fellow first-year Justin Ghaeli 12–10, 11–6, 11–3, while Dillon O’Shea fell to sophomore Wiatt Hinton 11–3, 11–7, 11–9 in the fifth slot.
In just his second year at the helm for Tufts, Raho saw improvement in the team’s performance against both Middlebury and Williams, compared to last year’s results.
“We were really excited [for Middlebury]. But once you push through one team in the NESCAC, you have to keep going higher. Williams, Amherst and Middlebury are kind of the top of the NESCAC in squash … so it was a little bit of a bigger step.”
Raho again noted his positive outlook after the weekend’s results.
“I thought our kids competed really well,” he said. “I think they’re figuring out what it takes to win a … high-level match and the quality of squash they need to play and the kind of energy and focus and skill level that’s required to win at these high levels. It was positive, even though it was a tough weekend with two losses.”
The men’s team (2–3) will close out its fall semester with trips to MIT and Bowdoin today and Saturday, respectively, before resuming play at Yale on Jan. 7.
On the women’s side, sophomore Chloe Kantor was the only Jumbo to pick up a victory in the team’s back-to-back losses to No. 15 Middlebury and No. 13 Williams.
On Sunday, Kantor defeated Williams sophomore Cassie Deshong 11–0, 11–5, 11–2 in the ninth position. The match’s lopsided 8–1 scoreline did not reflect its full picture, with some Jumbos forcing their opponents into extended games. In the fifth spot, first-year Megan Chen lost in a five-game match, capturing the first and third games before ultimately falling to junior Melissa Swann in a fifth-game tiebreaker (6–11, 11–9, 6–11, 11–9, 12–10). Meanwhile, sophomore Julie Yeung was defeated by sophomore Sarah Willwerth (11–1, 11–6, 11–13, 14–12) in the second position, while senior Sahana Karthik fell to first-year Alex Pear (11–8, 11–5, 9–11, 11–8) in the eighth spot.
It was the same story the previous day at Middlebury. Despite their 9–0 loss, the Jumbos hung tough against the hosts, with six players pushing their opponents to more than three games. Junior co-captain Claire Davidson fell to senior co-captain Beatrijs Kuijpers in five games in the first position (11–9, 11–13, 12–10, 6–11, 15–13). In the fifth spot, Chen captured the first game against sophomore Emily Beinkampen but then dropped three straight, to fall 7–11, 11–7, 11–7, 11–9. Yeung was defeated by first-year Ideal Dowling (11–4, 11–3, 10–12, 11–2), while Karthik, Kantor and senior Zarena Jafry fell in four games, as well.
Raho emphasized the match’s overall competitiveness despite Middlebury’s dominance on the scorecard.
“The women are very close to beating these teams,” he said. “Even though we lost very convincingly, the matches were very close. So all of a sudden if we won one, two [or] three of those matches, it’s a very close match overall.”
Karthik echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“I think everyone on the team played very well,” Karthik told the Daily in an email. “It’s both physically and mentally tough playing teams that are ranked higher because you really have to stick through. This is the best and strongest team we’ve had in the last [four] years. [From No.] 1 through 9, we put up competitive fights against Middlebury and Williams. Although the scores may not necessarily reflect it, all the points were long and my teammates were playing thoughtful shots throughout their matches.”
No. 19 Tufts (2–2) has just one more match before the winter break, as the team will travel to No. 26 Bowdoin on Saturday.
While the Jumbos’ season will not start up again until Jan. 7, they will be training hard in the meantime.
“I give the kids two weeks off after they finish their finals to go home for the holidays,” Raho said. “There are a bunch of big matches coming up, [so] we’re coming back early [to train] in preparation starting Jan. 4.”
Karthik explained that the team drew important lessons from the weekend’s defeats.
“After we played Middlebury and Williams, we talked about what we should be improving on from a technical perspective,” Karthik said. “We talked about playing more consistent shots, not only during matches but also during practice. That’s definitely something we’re focusing on as we move towards the second half of our season.”