The No. 7 Jumbos begins their spring season at Hartford, Conn. on Saturday against the No. 38 Trinity Bantams, an in-conference opponent, on March 9. The team looks to start off play in March in the same dominant fashion with which it finished its fall season earlier this academic year.
The Jumbos last took to the courts in October when they participated in the Bowdoin Invitational in Brunswick, Maine. The Jumbos ended the fall season on a high note at the invitational when they took on the Wellesley Blue, the Skidmore Thoroughbreds, the Bates Bobcats and the hosts, the Bowdoin Polar Bears. Four doubles and four singles went undefeated across the two day event.
“We’ve worked really hard during the offseason,” senior Tomo Iwasaki said when asked about the break from competition. “We’re just really excited to get back into competition.”
Although the fall season does not count towards the team record, it gives individual players an opportunity for intercollegiate competition and allows first-year players to gain some experience at the college level prior to heading into the long winter break. This experience could prove to be immensely beneficial for the Jumbos, who have a relatively young roster with only two seniors and one junior. The rest of the roster consists of two sophomores and four first-year players.
“I’m really excited for the season because we have a very young team,” Iwasaki said. “[The first-years] all bring their own talent to the court, so it’s going to be really exciting to see them compete this spring.”
After facing the Bantams, the Jumbos will take a break from action for just over a week before traveling out west for four different matches over spring break. The trip to the Los Angeles area starts with a match against the Redlands Bulldogs in Redlands, Calif. The Jumbos will then face the reigning Div. III champions and No. 1 ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas. Tufts will look to avenge last year’s defeat at the hands of Claremont-Mudd-Scrips, when the then No. 8 Jumbos fell 5–4 to the Athenas.
Following the match in Claremont, Calif. the Jumbos will stay out west and travel to Whittier College where they face familiar NESCAC opponent in No. 4 ranked Williams Ephs, a semifinalist in last year’s Div. III tournament. In the 2018 spring season, Tufts faced Williams twice prior to the NCAA tournament. The Ephs dominated the Jumbos in both matches, as they left Medford, Mass. with an 8–1 victory in April and then shut the Jumbos out 5–0 in the NESCAC tournament semifinal. The spring break trip concludes for the Jumbos with another top 10 matchup as they travel to back to Claremont, Calif. for a match at No. 8 Pomona-Pitzer.
“I think it will be really exciting to really just jump right into really tough competition,” Iwasaki said. “I think it sets a tone for the rest of the season by playing just really tough teams in the beginning and then building up whatever we learn from those matches and bringing that to the rest of the season … it will be exciting to see how we do.”
Following the trip to California, Tufts returns to campus where seven of their remaining 11 matches will be against fellow NESCAC schools. Seven of the 11 matches for the Jumbos throughout the end of March and all of April will also be against preseason top-20 teams, a sign of the NESCAC’s strength in women’s tennis.
“I try to make sure the team is not categorizing any teams for better or worse,” coach Kate Bayard told the Daily in an email. “We just have to continue to focus on how we can prepare the best we can for each match ahead of us. No doubt we always have a tough schedule. I feel scheduling the toughest teams possible makes us stronger and stronger as the season progresses.”
The Jumbos look to improve on their 13–7 record in the 2018 spring season that included an appearance in the NCAA Regional Final against the then 20–2 MIT Engineers. In the past three seasons, the Jumbos have been knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the third round, something they hope to change this coming season.
“So far this spring, team members have really come together to create a phenomenally tight team,” Bayard said. “It seems to have happened without pressure and quite naturally, which is always a bonus. So far so good. I look forward to seeing how team members continue to come together to support one another this spring.”