MEDFORD – The Tufts University men's squash team will play at the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championships this weekend (Feb. 8-10) at Middlebury College.
Head coach Joe Raho's Jumbos are the seventh seed, their highest ranking in the tournament since 2010. Only the sixth-seeded 2007 and 2008 Jumbo teams earned better seeds for NESCAC's.
Tufts will face 10th seed Wesleyan University in opening-round action on Friday at 6 pm. The Jumbos defeated the Cardinals 8-1 to open their 2018-19 season back on November 17. The brown and blue are ranked #24 and Wesleyan is at #29 in the College Squash Association (CSA) poll released on Tuesday.
The Jumbos will be looking to advance to the NESCAC quarterfinals for the first time since 2010. The Tufts-Wesleyan winner on Friday would face #2 seed and host Middlebury College in Saturday's quarterfinals at 12:15 pm.
Tufts is coming off a strong 8-1 victory against Hobart last Saturday. The Statesmen had defeated the Jumbos twice last year, including 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Conroy Cup at the CSA Team Championships. The Jumbos also have conference wins over Colby and Connecticut College teams that defeated them last season, as well as win against a Dickinson team that they lost to a year ago.
"We graduated nobody from the top nine last year and added four new freshmen players to the top nine," senior co-captain Brett Raskopf said. "This injection of new players has made it so that players in the top nine now have more of an incentive to keep their starting spot by performing well on match day."
Tufts recently has had a starting line-up with junior Raghav Kumar in the #1 spot, followed by freshman Konrad LaDow at #2, freshman Marco Rodriguez at #3, senior Alan Litman at #4, freshman Will Dewire at #5, freshman Dillon O'Shea at #6, junior Connor Wind at #7, Raskopf at #8 and sophomore Salik Awan at #9. Senior co-captain Aidan Porges has also been a contributor.
With good recruiting and coaching, Raho, the second-year leader of the Jumbos, has made a mark on the program. The Jumbos were the ninth seed in NESCAC for the last three seasons (2015-18) after four straight years (2011-15) as the 11th seed.
"We have also started to focus a lot more on fitness and shot-making in practice, which has helped raise our level of preparation for match day," Raskopf said.
Top-seed Trinity College, the most dominant men's team in the nation for two decades, has won each of the previous 12 conference championships. The Bantams, ranked second nationally this season, have won the Potter Trophy emblematic of the national championship 17 times in the past 20 seasons.
This is the 13th men's squash conference championship. For the first time this year the men's and women's championships have been split. The women play theirs next weekend at Trinity.
The tournament includes consolation matches in addition to championship play.