With spring just around the corner, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Swarthmore Men’s Tennis team is getting ready for another successful season. While the Garnet lost Matt Hirsh ’16 and William Chung ’16 to graduation last year, they’ve filled their positions with three freshmen, Kevin Xu ’20, William Teoh ’20, and Max Gruber ’20, who are eager to leave their mark on this season’s campaign. Starting in the 2012-2013 season, the Garnet have continuously improved their record. In 2012-2013, they ended up with a humble 11-10. Last year, they finished with an impressive overall record of 15-6, going undefeated (9-0) in conference play. The Garnet look to continue on this trend even though they are slated to take on a number of nationally ranked opponents, such as No. 24 Whitman, No. 9 Pomona-Pitzer, No. 7 Carnegie Mellon, and No. 16 Johns Hopkins.
In speaking to one of the team’s captain, John Larkin ’17 about their imposing schedule, he was positive that the team is more than ready to tackle what lies ahead.
“Our team is extremely confident going into this season. The entire tennis team has been working incredibly hard. I think everyone on the team is playing with a lot of confidence. We’re hungry for some tough matches,” he said.
This confidence should not be confused with arrogance. The Garnet have surely proven themselves worthy, as they’ve made the Centennial Conference finals four out of the last five years, even entering postseason conference play last year as the top seed. After a heartbreaking loss in the conference finals to Johns Hopkins, the Garnet have come back more ready than ever to claim the conference crown. Larkin is confident this year’s team will be able to uphold, if not surpass last year’s success.
“I think the atmosphere that the entire squad has created this year is unique of my other three seasons playing tennis. I know that we have the best shot to make NCAAs that we have had in awhile. The entire team leans on each other and we are consistently holding each other to a higher standard this year. I think we’re doing a really good job of working as a group to string together a lot of confidence.”
This new approach to the season hasn’t only been noticed by the team’s seasoned veterans. Teoh has also noticed the mentality and accountability standards that the team is exhibiting.
“What has surprised me most is how committed everyone is to being a team. In high school, my tennis team had members that were not dedicated. But here, we all want to become better, and all hold each other accountable for our actions. We’re always making sure we’re staying healthy and getting better while having fun.”
When asked about the challenging schedule ahead for the team, Teoh, like Larkin, responded with confidence, citing the offseason work that they’ve put in to get themselves ready.
“We have been doing a lot of extra running and weightlifting in the offseason to prepare us for a long season. Recently, we’ve done a few intrasquad scrimmages to create real-match scenarios. Afterwards, we reflect as a team which is great for our mental game. By doing this, we feel confident our guys can go out and compete with any nationally ranked team,” said Teoh.
On top of the team’s veteran leadership and invigorating freshman focus, efforts from the sophomore and junior class do not go unnoticed. Both Mark Fallati ’18 and Josh Powell ’18 have been asserting their dominance on Centennial Conference play for some time now. Last year, Fallati finished conference play with an impressive singles record of 7-1 and 8-1 when paired with Powell for doubles. Furthermore, Fallati was named to the 2016 Centennial Conference First Team, for singles and doubles, and was crowned 2016 Centennial Conference Player of the Year.
Swarthmore Men’s Tennis, historically, has been a dominant program. With four total NCAA Division III championships (1977, 1981, 1985, 1990) the team has certainly held its own on the big stage. Men’s Tennis begins their spring play this Saturday at 8:00a.m versus Christopher Newport University. With the work that the team has put in, coupled with their confidence in their abilities, we very well may see another deep run in the NCAA tournament this year. The whole Swarthmore community looks forward to a great and historic season.