Revisiting the top 10 moments in Jumboland

The men's basketball team celebrates their NESCAC championship victory after a game against Colby in Cousens Gym on March 1. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

Although the COVID-19 pandemic shut down athletics and much more across the world, the Jumbos still had a historic year of their own — setting numerous records and winning both conference and national championships.

Here’s a look back at some of the top moments in Tufts athletics this year.

Sept. 14: Football defeats NESCAC powerhouse Trinity

On opening weekend, the football team took down three-time defending champion Trinity, 14–8, at home on Ellis Oval. The win was the first against Trinity for Tufts since 2007 — and the first for coach Jay Civetti, a Trinity alum.

Graduating senior linebacker and co-captain Greg Holt and rising junior defensive lineman Jovan Nenadovic led a Jumbos defense that limited the Bantams to 281 yards on offense. The Jumbos’ offense proved it could survive without quarterback Ryan McDonald (LA’19), as graduating senior Jacob Carroll got his first start at quarterback.

Despite a hot start to the year, Tufts lost the next two weeks and ended the season just 4–5.

Oct. 19: Sorkin wins ITA Championship for second year in a row

Rising senior and co-captain Boris Sorkin secured the Jumbos’ first championship victory of the year in his second straight national championship win at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Cup singles tournament in Rome, Ga. Sorkin defeated rising junior Stan Morris of Middlebury, 7–6 (5), 3–6, 6–1 in the final match of the tournament.

What’s more, amid a global pandemic, Sorkin also won the online ITA Top Moments Bracket Challenge for this victory, receiving the most votes over the course of the online three-week bracket competition.

Junior Boris Sorkin poses for a portrait after winning his second straight national championship for tennis at the ITA cup at Berry College in Rome, Ga on Oct. 19, 2019. Courtesy Josh Belandres

Nov. 10: Volleyball wins second NESCAC Championship in program history

The volleyball team made history in November, defeating Bowdoin 3–2 in a close match. The championship victory was the second ever for the program, the last one coming in 1996.

The Jumbos, who had beaten the Polar Bears 3–0 earlier in the season, went up in the first set 25–21, but the Polar Bears took the next two sets 25–18, 25–20. Tufts rallied in the fourth set and won 25–17 and sealed the deal in the final set 15–13.

The conference title gave the team an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Once again, the Jumbos found themselves squaring off against the Polar Bears in the second round, but the Polar Bears were victorious this time, 3–2.

Nov. 23: Page runs second-best NCAA 6k in Tufts history

Rising junior Danielle Page has already accumulated a long list of impressive performances just two years into her collegiate career. At the NCAA Div. III Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky., Page posted the second-best finish at NCAAs in Tufts program history with a time of 21:25.50.

That finish gave her sixth place in the race — only the third top-10 finish in Tufts program history. Page was also the top runner from New England at the race, as the Jumbos placed eighth overall. 

Dec. 7: Men’s soccer wins fourth national championship in six years

At this point, you have to wonder if the men’s soccer team gets tired of winning.

The Jumbos took home their fourth NCAA title in six years, solidifying themselves as one of the nation’s top teams. After winning the NESCAC tournament, the team breezed through the first two rounds, before nearly losing to Washington and Lee College in an overtime thriller.

Wins over Conn. College and Calvin University sent Tufts to the finals against NESCAC rival Amherst. A first-half goal from graduating senior midfielder/forward and co-captain Gavin Tasker and a second-half goal from rising senior forward Max Jacobs after a questionable handball gave the Jumbos a 2–0 shutout victory — and yet another piece of hardware.

Jan. 13: Shapiro leaves Tufts for Harvard

After leading his program to its fourth NCAA Championship in six years, men’s soccer coach Josh Shapiro announced that he accepted the head coaching position at Div. I Harvard University.

Shapiro built a dynasty in his 10 years as a Jumbo, winning national titles in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019, as well as NESCAC titles in 2017 and 2019. Tufts is one of the preeminent teams in Div. III, one of just three in the NCAA to have won four or more national championships.

Kyle Dezotell will take over for Shapiro, coming to Tufts from Ithaca College.

Jan. 31: Women’s basketball defeats rival Bowdoin to stay undefeated

Coming off a NESCAC Championship and trip to the NCAA Elite Eight in the 2018–19 season, the women’s basketball team got off to an impressive 18–0 start in coach Jill Pace’s first season at Tufts.

As the regular season entered its final weeks, a big matchup stood out on the schedule between then No. 1 Tufts and No. 2 Bowdoin, perennial powerhouses and NESCAC rivals. The Jumbos emerged victorious, 97–88, behind 23 points from rising senior guard/forward Emily Briggs, 20 points from graduating senior guard Cailin Harrington and 19 points each from graduating senior guard/forward and co-captain Erica DeCandido and rising junior guard Molly Ryan.

The Jumbos went on to secure its first undefeated regular season in history, before the Polar Bears got their revenge in the NESCAC Championship.

Feb. 1: New Tufts Squash Center opens

The $6 million Tufts Squash Center opened on Feb. 1, as the men’s team and women’s team faced off against Conn. College.  

The project was funded fully by donors and took about eight months to complete.

The teams now have a state-of-the-art facility to call home, and now have the ability to host larger collegiate and high school tournaments, according to the Athletics Department.

Tufts first year Abhilasha Bhasin returns the ball during a match against Conn. College at the Tufts Squash Center on Feb. 1. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

Feb. 20–23: Gu dazzles at his final NESCAC Championship meet

Graduating senior Roger Gu has been setting records and winning titles in his four years as a Jumbo swimmer, and his final year was no exception, despite the cancellation of the NCAA Championships meet.

At the NESCAC Championships, Gu earned his team 88 points, helping Tufts place second overall for the second year in a row. Gu won the 50-yard freestyle (19.78) and the 100-yard freestyle (43.87), bringing his total career NESCAC individual titles to five.

Gu was also a part of the 400-yard freestyle relay that set an all-time NESCAC record of 2:59.52.

Mar. 1: Men’s basketball wins first NESCAC Championship in program history

In one of the most exciting games in any sport this past year, the men’s basketball team took home its first NESCAC Championship in program history with a 102–94 double overtime win against Colby.

Graduating senior guard and co-captain Eric Savage drained a 35-foot shot in the final seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime, electrifying the crowd at Cousens Gym.

Overtime remained close, and rising sophomore guard Dylan Thoerner calmly hit two free throws at the end of the first overtime to tie it up at 85. The Jumbos, led by coach Bob Sheldon in his 32nd year at the helm, held on through the next overtime period, draining their free throws when it mattered the most.

The men’s basketball team is pictured after winning the NESCAC championship game against Colby in Cousens Gym on March 1. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily