Last weekend, the Tufts men’s squash team officially finished their 2021–22 season at the College Squash Association National Collegiate Individual Championships in Philadelphia.
While the team championships were in mid-February, junior Sanjeev Jeyabalan explained that the event formatting meant that every squash team only received one or two bids.
“You get in on a qualification basis … and we had one representative who qualified for [the Individual Championship],” he said.
That representative, sophomore Harry Charlton, had one successful match but ultimately lost in the consolation semifinals.
Charlton gave more insight on the logistics of the championship.
“[The Individual Championship] is at the end of each season. … The teams will get a certain amount of bids, and the NESCAC teams usually get only one or two for the season,” Charleton said.
The exclusivity of the final event means that the players who qualify are the top performers from around the country.
“It's a good experience just because it’s all the best players in the country, so you’re able to measure yourself against the best and see what you need to do to improve your next season. It’s a good learning experience,” Charlton said.
Ranked No. 1 for the Jumbos, Charlton was excited to show his skills at the championship. His first match was against skilled Dickinson player Nicolas Serna Londono. Charlton was happy with his performance, even though he didn’t win the match.
“I went into it trying to stay in the rallies and do my best. I was overall happy with how I played,” he said.
Charlton’s best playing of the weekend was against a player from Colby, which turned into a lengthy, five-game match.
“That was probably my favorite match of the weekend just because I was down 2–0 games and had to come back to win in 5,” Charlton said.
While Charlton ultimately lost against Cornell’s Arnaav Sareem 11–5, 11–8 and 11–4, he admitted it was a tough and physical match but an overall great experience.
The Individual Championships were bittersweet for the men’s squash team, as their season was marred by COVID-19 in spite of many aspects of the world returning to normal.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say we had a season [not affected by COVID-19] ... because we always had [COVID-19] problems existing within the team,” Jeyabalan said.
He also explained that three of the top nine players couldn’t play in the NESCAC Men’s Championship, which affected their performance.
Charlton shared a similar sentiment, explaining that the first half of the season was marked with a win against Bates and a good performance against Williams.
“The second half of the season, we did have a bunch of [COVID-19] issues. ... I had to miss the NESCAC tournament because of that, and … we were missing a few key players. ... It was certainly frustrating, but overall it does teach you to appreciate the matches where you do have the entire team and not take those for granted,” he said.
Ultimately, though, the Jumbos bounced back throughout the season.
“We went to nationals, so we did the best we could. [COVID-19] was just something that we had to work with and deal with, but we did really well,” Jeyabalan said.
Looking to next season, both Jeyabalan and Charlton are enthusiastic about the future of the team.
“We’re going to be very well prepared for whatever is thrown at us,” Jeyablan said.
Since he will be one of three co-captains next year, he is also looking forward to leading the team more and contributing to motivating the players.
“This year we finished 18th [in the College Squash Association rankings], so we’ve been steadily progressing [in] rankings and getting better and better each year. I’m pretty confident that the trend will keep continuing. Next year, I think we might have the best team we’ve had in a long time ... so [I’m] definitely looking forward to that,” Charlton said.