Senior Erica DeCandido dribbles the ball at the NESCAC semifinal game against Williams in Cousens Gym on Feb. 29. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

Men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team finished a stellar 2019–20 season as NESCAC tournament champions en route to an automatic bid in the Div. III NCAA tournament.

The Jumbos went 12–4 in non-conference play before winning their first eight NESCAC games. Despite losing their final two NESCAC regular season games on the road against Middlebury and Williams, Tufts earned the No. 1 seed and a first round bye in the NESCAC tournament.

Tufts rolled to victories over Hamilton and Trinity in the NESCAC tournament quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, setting up a championship clash against Colby at Cousens Gym. Tufts went into the half up 12, but Colby got hot in the second half and led by three with six seconds remaining in regulation. Graduating senior guard and co-captain Eric Savage hit a 35-foot prayer with three seconds remaining in the second half to force overtime. The Jumbos went on to win the championship thriller in double overtime 102–94, giving the program its first NESCAC championship in school history.

In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Tufts overcame a 19-point halftime deficit to defeat Western Connecticut State University 74–72. Tufts then earned a spot in the Sweet 16 with a 75–66 second round victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Unfortunately, that was the Jumbos’ last game of the season as the NCAA cancelled all tournament games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising senior center Luke Rogers was named the NESCAC Player of the Year, Savage was named to the NESCAC All-Conference team and coach Bob Sheldon was named NESCAC Coach of the Year. The future is bright for the Jumbos as Savage is the squad’s only graduating player.

Rising senior center Luke Rogers drives in for a layup in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Cousens Gym on March 7. Jake Freudberg / The Tufts Daily

Women’s basketball

The women’s basketball team defended its spot as the No. 1 ranked Div. III team in the nation throughout the 2019–20 season. The Jumbos went undefeated in regular-season play for the first time in program history, entering NESCAC playoffs with an unprecedented 24–0 record.

With coach Jill Pace in her first season at the helm, Tufts continually proved itself with crucial wins over familiar foes like Bowdoin and Amherst. For her impact on the team and program, Pace was named NESCAC Coach of the Year, New England Women’s Basketball Association (NEWBA) Coach of the Year and D3Hoops.com Northeast Coach of the Year. Additionally, assistant coach Jamie Insel was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Div. III Assistant Coach of the Year.

The Jumbos entered the NESCAC playoffs as the No. 1 seed and hosted throughout the entire tournament. They faced their first setback in the finals, where they ultimately lost to Bowdoin 70–60.

After the NESCAC playoffs, Tufts received a bid into the NCAA tournament and was a top contender for a national championship. After beating SUNY Polytechnic Institute and SUNY  Cortland 72–34 and 79–53, respectively, the Jumbos were set to host the Sweet 16 in Cousens Gym. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, playoffs were cut short, and Tufts was never given the chance to continue its quest for the championship.

Tufts was led by graduating senior co-captains Erica DeCandido and Lilly Paro, as well as graduating seniors Cailin Harrington and Sadie Otley, who all played crucial roles in the team’s success. At the end of the season, DeCandido was named NESCAC Player of the Year, NEWBA Player of the Year, WBCA All-American and D3Hoops.com 2020 Player of the Year. Alongside her, Paro was named to the NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team and received NESCAC All-Academic honors.

Hockey

The hockey team finished with its best record since the 2016–17 season at 8–15–1 overall but missed out on the NESCAC tournament in what was an extremely tight conference all season. This was the first season since 2013–14 that the team did not qualify for the postseason.

Coming into the final weekend of the season, Tufts had matchups against Colby and Bowdoin, both at home at Valley Forum, as those three schools fought to qualify for the postseason. Tufts won Friday night’s matchup against Colby 3–1, but lost to Bowdoin the next day 4–2, leaving Tufts as the No. 9 seed and out of playoff contention.

The Jumbos started the season with a disappointing 0–5 record but slowly turned things around as the season went on. The team had a challenging schedule, too, against top ranked teams. Tufts upset No. 8 nationally-ranked Trinity 4–2, and played close games against No. 9 Williams, No. 12 Endicott and No. 13 Babson. Even in the losses with more lopsided scores, they were actually much closer matchups, often resulting from games that went down to the final minutes when the Jumbos pulled their goalie.

Seven seniors are graduating this year, but coach Pat Norton has a core group of rising juniors and seniors that will lead the program next year.

Fencing

The fencing team had a successful season, winning the majority of matches at each multi-meet on the schedule.

At the first Northeast Fencing Conference (NFC) meet of the season on Jan. 25 at Boston College, the Jumbos took four of seven matches. On a busy weekend in February, the team won four of six matches at the FDU Invitational at Fairleigh Dickinson University, following up the next day with five wins out of six matches at the second NFC meet of the season, hosted at the Gantcher Center. The team went on to place fifth out of 12 teams at the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association later in the month.

Eight members of the team qualified for NCAA Northeast Regionals at Cornell University: rising sophomores Kaitlyn Gill, Arianna Minassian and Unnathy Nelluta, and rising junior Hannah Fruitman in epee; rising junior Allison Cheng on foil; and rising senior Subin Jeong, rising junior Bella McKinney and rising sophomore Emily Valadez in sabre.

Gill was the most successful at the tournament, reaching the epee semifinals.

Rising junior Bella McKinney faces off against an opponent in a sabre bout during the Northeast Fencing Conference Meet held in the Gantcher Center on Feb. 9. Alexander Thompson / The Tufts Daily

Men’s squash

The No. 24 men’s squash team ended its 2019–20 campaign with a 7–14 record overall and placed sixth at the NESCAC Championships with impressive victories against No. 23 Amherst and No. 27 Connecticut College. The Jumbos also competed in the Summers Cup in the C division bracket, losing a close 5–4 match against Colby to finish in eighth place. 

The team was led by graduating senior co-captain Raghav Kumar and consisted of three graduating seniors, three rising seniors, five rising juniors and five rising sophomores. 

Kumar participated in the College Squash Association (CSA) Individual Championships for the second time, this time competing in the B division bracket. He was the first Tufts men’s player to win a match for the Jumbos at the CSA Championships since 2014, defeating Hobart and William Smith College’s rising senior Quinn Udy in the consolation round quarterfinals. Kumar, however, lost in the consolation round semi-finals to Williams rising junior Jacob Bassil 11–8, 11–9, 12–10, thus ending the Jumbos’ season and his tenure as captain of the team. 

With five first-years added to the team roster and three of them in the top nine, the relatively young team performed exceedingly well. Rising sophomore Sanjeev Jeyabalan was honored with the title of NESCAC Player of the Week in February for his stellar performances, notching consecutive victories over Middlebury, Conn. College, Amherst and Williams. Rising sophomore Kunal Valia, playing at No. 1 position for the Jumbos, earned a spot on the NESCAC All-Conference second team.

Women’s squash

Women’s squash finished the 2019–20 season with an overall record of 10–11, a sixth place finish in the NESCAC tournament and a third-place finish in the Walker Cup C division of the College Squash Association National Team Championship. 

The team was led by graduating senior co-captains Claire Davidson and Catherine Shanahan, who played in the first and third positions on the Jumbos’ ladder, respectively. Davidson was a standout player for the team, facing some of the nation’s top individual players over the course of the season. Her consistent high level of play earned her a bid to the national individual championship for the third straight year. Davidson competed for the 2020 Holleran Cup in the B division east draw, splitting her four matches 2–2. 

Rising sophomore Isa Schneider had a remarkable rookie season with the team. Schneider recorded several impressive individual wins at the number two position for the Jumbos, including a four-game win over her Wesleyan opponent during her collegiate debut on Nov. 16.

Tufts’ three matches against Wesleyan highlighted the team’s improvement over the course of the season. The Jumbos opened their season with a 6–3 victory over the Cardinals. The two teams met again in February during both the NESCAC and national tournaments, where Tufts came away with 8–1 victories both times.

Davidson and Shanahan were the team’s only graduating seniors, and their leadership and talent will surely be missed. With plenty of exciting young talent seen this season, the 2020–21 season will be a promising one for the Jumbos.

Tufts graduating senior Catherine Shanahan prepares to return the ball during a match against Conn. College at the Tufts Squash Center on Feb. 1. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

Men’s swimming and diving

The men’s swim and dive team enjoyed a successful year in the pool, with fast performances across the board. Though unable to make its mark on the national scene due to the pandemic, the team placed second overall at the NESCAC Championships for the second consecutive year.

With coach Adam Hoyt and the rest of the coaching staff leading the way, the Jumbos saw marked improvements throughout the team. Many of the swimmers ended the year with lifetime bests in their primary events, dropping time throughout the course of the season. Swimmers that had stagnated the previous year bounced back in a major way, contributing heavily to the team’s success. 

Graduating senior standout Roger Gu dominated in his final year of competition, defending his titles in the 50-yard and the 100-yard freestyles and becoming the only swimmer in the conference this season to swim under the 20-second and 44-second marks in the two events respectively. At the conclusion of NESCACs, the Jumbos captured seven conference titles while scoring 1797.5 points, outscoring their total from a season ago. Seven school records and 21 NCAA B cuts were also established by the team, while the Jumbos were able to qualify nine individuals to compete at the NCAA Div. III national championships.

All in all, the men’s team continues to cement itself as one of the top programs in the conference. Though unable to edge out Williams, the program led by Hoyt has now placed in the top three of the conference for the past five years, a great sign for the future prospects of the team moving forward.

Women’s swimming and diving

The women’s swim and dive team enjoyed a remarkable year full of fast swimming and memorable performances. Though its season was cut short, the team capped off the year in impressive fashion, finishing second at the NESCAC Championships for the second consecutive year.

Led by coach Adam Hoyt and the rest of the coaching staff, the Jumbos saw improvements across the board. Many of the team’s swimmers swam to lifetime bests in their primary events, consistently dropping time as the season went by. The highly touted first-year athletes lived up to their hype and contributed admirably in their first year of competition. Meet after meet, race after race, the Jumbos built upon their momentum all season, culminating in the team’s statement performance at this year’s NESCAC Championships.

By competition’s end, the team captured 13 top-three finishes and All-Conference honors, scoring 1593.5 points, which bettered their total from last year by 154 points. The Jumbos established 13 new school records and 35 total NCAA B cuts in both individual and relay events, with the second mark also improving upon last year’s total. Additionally, the Jumbos qualified 12 individuals to the NCAA Div. III National Championships, which were eventually cancelled, two more qualifiers than they had a season ago.

All in all, the future for the women’s swim and dive team looks incredibly bright. After settling in the middle of the pack for many years, the Jumbos have now emerged as the clear runners-up in the conference behind Williams’ Ephs.

Men’s track and field

The men’s indoor track and field finished off a successful season despite not being able to send athletes to the NCAA Div. III Championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the athletes, such as graduating senior Matt D’Anieri, qualified with stellar performances in the mid-distance races, while many others, such as those in the 4 x 400 meters and distance medley relay teams, significantly improved their bids at the Tufts National Qualifying Meet in the beginning of March. 

However, the success of the season was not merely predicated on the athletes’ thrusting onto the national scene; it was also defined by great collective wins, personal bests and underclassmen overachieving. In the events that were scored, the Jumbos placed third at the Tufts Jumbo Invitational to start the season, placed second at the Branwen Smith-King Invitational at the beginning of February and placed third at the New England Div. III Championships just a few weeks later. 

Meets such as the Cupid Challenge, as well as the invites at Boston University and MIT, saw the team take advantage of the optimal conditions and not only garner numerous personal bests, but also gain confidence as a team. 

Improving on personal bests was a theme throughout the team all season, especially for the underclassmen. Athletes such as rising sophomore Hunter Farrell and rising junior Nick Delaney have consistently improved all season, even thrusting themselves into the collegiate rankings, creating a season for Tufts to build on and a bright future for this team.

Rising senior Harry Steinberg competes in the Tufts National Qualifying Meet in the Gantcher Center on March 7. Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily

Women’s track and field

For the second year in a row, the women’s track and field team placed third at the New England Div. III Championships at the end of February. The Jumbos had impressive performances at the meet from rising sophomore Lia Rotti, graduating senior Sabrina Gornisiewicz, rising juniors Hannah Neilon and Tara Lowensohn and graduating senior and co-captain Julia Gake.

Throughout the season, athletes set personal bests and Tufts records, even against tough competition across all NCAA divisions at meets such as the David Hemery Valentine Invite at Boston University.

Seven Jumbos qualified for the NCAA Div. III Indoor Track and Field Championships in Winston-Salem, N.C.: Gake, graduating senior and co-captain Rhemi Toth, Lowensohn, Neilon, rising junior Danielle Page, Rotti and rising sophomore Jaidyn Appel. The meet was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the team had already traveled to North Carolina when Tufts announced its campus closure and the NCAA subsequently canceled the meet.

Neilon, Page, Appel and Rotti also won All-Region honors from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.


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