Men’s and women’s squash triumph over Bates

The Tufts squash teams have played victorious seasons, surpassing expectations for the program. Courtesy Jonathan Bird

Coming into December undefeated in NESCAC play, both the men’s and women’s squash teams collected their third conference win against Bates College last Friday. At their home Tufts Squash Center, the Jumbos won both matches 7–2, defeating a Bates team that had dominated the series in previous years

Coming into the match, the men’s team had not beaten Bates in more than 20 years and the women had only one win in more than 10 meetings against the Bobcats. Flipping the script, Tufts tallied nine 3–0 sweeps throughout the men’s and women’s matches in what could initiate a changing of the guard in the NESCAC.

In a complete performance, the Tufts men were victorious in the first three positions and the fifth position, and they rounded out the match with triumphs in the seventh, eighth and ninth positions. Sophomore Harry Charlton led the team in the No. 1 spot, posting a 3–0 victory. There were three more sweeps with first-year Oliver Eielson, senior Konrad LaDow and junior Vivaan Jaikishan all blanking their opponents. Jaikishan finished the match with vigor, outlasting his opponent in a 16–14 tiebreak in the final frame. 

Playing in the No. 2 spot, junior Kunal Valia came back from 2–1 down to outlast Bates’ Alec Spiro in five sets, with the match ending 14–12, 6–11, 8–11, 11–8 and 11–7. This performance earned Valia NESCAC player of the week, joining Charlton as the only Jumbos to receive the award this season

The Bobcats managed to take two tightly contested matches in the fourth and sixth positions,  the sixth being a five-set battle senior Dillon O’Shea narrowly dropped 2–3.  

After falling just short in two five-set thrillers in the first and second spots, the Tufts women won at the next seven spots, revealing depth and talent throughout the roster. Sophomore Sanjana Vissapragada, first-year Aleezah Burhan, first-year Nieve Monderer and senior co-captain Diya Sanghi swept their opponents in the third through sixth positions, with sophomore Ami Sao also beating her opponent 3–0 in the nine spot. First-year Ellie Ackerman won a four set match in the seventh spot, and senior co-captain Megan Chen won a five setter in the eighth position. 

Despite only having three seniors on the team, the Tufts underclassmen have been able to find success early on. While this year is the first time they have all competed on the same squad, many of the younger Jumbos had encountered each other along the high school squash circuit. 

“A lot of us have known each other just from junior squash … a lot of the freshmen I’ve known since I was a little kid,” Monderer said. 

Seeing some familiar faces may have helped this group become more tightly knit, and although their collegiate squash experience may be limited, their focus and belief is unwavering.  

“Since getting here, we’ve gotten so much closer,” Monderer said. “When we’re in practice, it’s making sure we’re putting our best foot forward everyday, and not waiting until the match to give our full energy.”

These two victories over Bates may signify an evolution of the Tufts squash program, eclipsing past expectations and becoming a program capable of competing with the nation’s top teams. The Jumbos were measured again Thursday night as they faced Williams’ Ephs; the women won 7–2, while the men’s scores had yet to be released at press time.

Williams’ men are ranked No. 16 and the women stand at No. 13 in the most recent College Squash Association’s poll. Neither Ephs squad has a victory this year, but their combined 0–6 record may be misleading. Williams has run the gauntlet of Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University. All three of these teams are ranked in the top ten in both men’s and women’s polls. 

Yesterday’s men’s match began at 5 p.m. at the Tufts Squash Center. It was the last competition of 2021, with the next scheduled match taking place Jan. 10 at the University of Virginia.