“This was the best season we’ve ever had,” senior co-captain Marco Rodriguez said, reflecting on the Tufts men’s squash 2021–22 campaign.
In his fourth year, Rodriguez has experienced and played a large role in the evolution of the program from a low-tiered NESCAC squad to a team that climbed to No. 18 in the College Squash Association’s national poll, published Feb. 15.
Tufts finished at 8–7 this year, 4–2 in the NESCAC. The past three years their records stood at 7–13, 7–14 and 10–12. The program’s undeniable improvement was most prevalent in their matches versus NESCAC rival Bates this year. In all matches against the Bobcats since the 2016–17 season, the aggregate total stood at a noncompetitive 39–3 in favor of Bates.
“When I was a freshman, we lost to Bates 9–0. This year we beat them 7–2 and then again 6–3,” Rodriguez said.
The Jumbos’ first meeting against the Bobcats was a regular season contest that took place at the Tufts Squash Center. In this matchup, Rodriguez emerged victorious after five tedious sets. The second matchup between these NESCAC foes was in the first round of the Collegiate Squash Association’s National Championships.
The format of this postseason competition differs from traditional NCAA tournaments: Teams are placed into a pool of eight, based on their ranking, and play an independent tournament. Tufts, ranked No. 18, joined group C. This pool contained teams ranked 17 through 24, and matches were played at the University of Pennsylvania.
Reaching the C bracket would have been an impressive feat on its own, but Tufts went on to beat Bates 6–3, defeating their rivals for the second consecutive time.
“There were teams in the E division we used to lose 9–0 to right before my year,” Rodriguez said.
Tufts rolled on to defeat St. Lawrence University (15–9) in a tightly contested semifinal that ended 5–4 in favor of the Jumbos. The championship match was against the Naval Academy (15–12) who held the C group’s No. 1 seed.
In what may have been their final collegiate squash match, Rodriguez and his fellow seniors Konrad Ladow and Dillon O’Shea all picked up wins against their Midshipmen adversaries. This was a tightly contested duel that came down to the final match, with Tufts narrowly losing 5–4, ending the season as runners-up.
While the end to this 2021–22 campaign was bittersweet, upperclassmen like Rodriguez can’t help but feel immense joy at what he helped accomplish as a Jumbo.
“It really feels like the start of something new,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t even begin to describe how proud I am of this team and everything we’ve accomplished this year. There are so many good young players who are about to take this program to another level.”
While the collective group’s season is finished, there are three players who are eligible for the National Collegiate Individual Championships, also held at the University of Pennsylvania. First-year Kerwin Teh, sophomore Harry Charlton and junior Kunal Valia will have the option to continue their individual seasons.