Men’s squash finishes 7th at NESCAC Championship, gear up for CSA Nationals

01/20/2017 - Cambridge, MA - Raghav Kumar '20 swings to hit the ball in a match against Dickonson at Harvard's Murr Center on Jan. 20, 2017. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts men’s squash team finished its regular season on Jan. 26 with a 4–8 record; in post-season play, it finished seventh in the NESCAC championships the following weekend. The Jumbos wrap up their season with a trip to the CSA Nationals on Feb. 15–17 at Yale University. The Jumbos hope to close out their encouraging year on a good note after a season marked with close wins against evenly matched rivals and losses to formidable opponents.

The season started well for the Jumbos, who tallied two straight wins over Wesleyan and Colby, 8–1 and 5–4, respectively.

“When we beat [Colby] 5–4 at the beginning of the season in November, I thought maybe we were going to have a really good year,” coach Joe Raho said.

While Raho took some comfort in the team’s performances early in the season, the Jumbos suffered a painful 5–4 loss to Bowdoin at the end of the fall semester. The loss was amidst a five-game losing streak to close the fall season that had a varied effect on the players. Raho observed that while some were beaten up by it, others used the Jumbos’ defeats as motivation for future matches against the Polar Bears.

Winter break saw Tufts fall at Yale (9–0) and against Amherst (7–2). The Jumbos turned things around by the time spring term started started with a crucial 5–4 win over the Dickinson College Red Devils to keep their season alive. With the score tied at four apiece, junior Connor Wind came back from four match points to defeat his opponent in five games (11–7, 4–11, 7–11, 12–10, 11–6). Senior co-captain Brett Raskopf commented on Dickinson’s past triumphs over Tufts.

“Dickinson historically has beaten us 8–1 or 9–0,” Raskopf said. “[In the past] we didn’t even really have a chance to be honest.”

Raskopf cited Wind’s incredible comeback as one of the biggest moments of the season.

“If [Wind] hadn’t [won] we’d probably be in the D division at Nationals,” Raskopf said. “That was honestly one of the greatest squash matches I’d ever seen.”

The team fell to Bates before recovering strongly to defeat Hobart to finish its regular season. Seeded seventh for the NESCAC Championship, the Jumbos took on the Wesleyan Cardinals in the first round of the NESCAC tournament on Feb. 1. The team started on a good note, sweeping 10th seeded Wesleyan 9–0.

Junior Raghav Kumar picked up the victory in the No. 1 spot in a back-and-forth five game match against sophomore Sean Choi (11–8, 9–11, 11–6, 9–11, 11–7). First-years Konrad LaDow and Marco Rodriguez in the second and third spots, respectively, won in four games, while the rest of the team collected three game wins in a dominant performance. 

The Jumbos then found themselves on the receiving end of that same scoreline the next day as they were trounced by the Middlebury Panthers in the quarterfinals. The team was unable to find their way past most of the Middlebury line-up — six players lost their matches in three games or fewer. First-year Will Dewire in the fifth position led his opponent, first-year Teddy Best, by two games, but lost the last three and subsequently the match (9–11, 8–11, 11–4, 11–6, 11–4).

The loss knocked the Jumbos out of the championship bracket, but set the team up with an opportunity to rectify their loss to Bowdoin earlier in the season in a consolation match. The Jumbos were unable to capitalize on this opportunity, falling 8–1 to the Polar Bears. Senior co-captain Aidan Porges recorded Tufts’ sole victory as he defeated first-year Ishaan George despite losing the first game (811, 119, 116, 116).

Tufts then played No. 26 Colby College for seventh place in the NESCAC Championship, and managed to edge the Mules 5-4 again. Dewire showed his grit and determination and rallied from 0-2 to win the next three games, defeating junior Jason Brodo in the fifth spot (7–11, 9–11, 11–7, 11–9, 12–10).

“[Colby] has solid players and they were really ready to go, but our guys played really well,” Raho said. “[First-year] Dillon O’Shea lost earlier in the season [against Colby]. This time he played someone different but played a really good match against a kid who beat us the first time that we played [Colby] and [O’Shea] won.”

The close win over Colby was decisive in keeping the team in the top 24, which allows Tufts to compete in CSA Nationals in the C division. Raskopf commented on the accomplishment.

“Playing in the C division at Nationals was definitely a goal of ours,” Raskopf said. “My freshman year we were in the E division, then the last two years we were in the D division and so to get to play in the C division with … really good squash teams that are going to be in our division is really impressive and probably the highest possible goal we could have asked for.”

Raskopf also pointed out how the bottom five players all won their games in the 5–4 win over Colby, showing the Jumbos’ remarkable depth on their roster. The men’s squash team in Raho’s second year as coach has thrived from experienced senior leadership from Raskopf and Porges and from an influx of first-year talent. The team finishes up the season at the CSA Nationals at Yale University from Feb. 15–17.