While most of campus enjoyed a break off from school, the nationally ranked Swarthmore Men’s Tennis team hit the road, stopping in Virginia and then flying to California to compete against some of the top Division III tennis teams in the country.
Last year, the Garnet spent most of their spring break in the Pacific Northwest at the Whitman Invitational, largely taking on schools from California, Washington, and Oregon. The trip was for the most part a success. Wins over California Lutheran University and Lewis and Clark College prepared the Garnet for a season that included a 15-6 record and a Centennial Conference Tournament Finals appearance. Mostly, the spring break trip was used as an opportunity for the Garnet to challenge themselves against unfamiliar opposition in an entirely different part of the country.
The team graduated two seniors last year, and recruited three freshman, Max Gruber ’20 of Iowa City, Iowa, William Teoh ’20 of Duluth, Georgia, and Kevin Xu ’20 of Princeton, New Jersey.
The Garnet, who are ranked 29th nationally by the NCAA, started their eventful 2017 spring break in Lexington, Virginia against Washington and Lee University, who are ranked 38th nationwide. The Garnet dropped the match by a 3-6 score, but notched wins at first doubles, third singles, and sixth singles. Highlights of the match included Kevin Xu’ 20’s win at sixth singles. They continued their trip in a neutral site match against another nationally ranked opponent, Sewanee: The University of the South, another team ranked in the top 30. Swarthmore’s doubles teams won on the day, but the team was swept in the singles lineup.
The team then headed to Southern California, in hopes for a final spring tuneup in warm weather before a return to Conference play. The Garnet fell to the 18th ranked University of Redlands, and then, in a split squad match, fell to Cerritos College, and the 6th ranked co-op team of the Claremont Colleges (Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd). On Friday, March 10, the Garnet picked up their first win of the year, beating Glendale College 6-3. Subsequently, the team concluded their California road trip with losses to top 10 nationally ranked opponents, Pomona-Pitzer, and Carnegie Mellon in Claremont, California.
Teoh reflected on his experiences on the spring break trip.
“The experience was unique because it really gave us a chance to bond off the court and outside of the classroom as well, particularly as a new freshman. I definitely became closer with the guys, and Coach Mullan too. Along with tennis, we also visited Manhattan Beach where Evan Han’s family hosted us.”
Teoh also commented on his takeaways from the difficult results from the trip.
“Some of the major takeaways from this trip from a team perspective is that things won’t always go our way and we will make mistakes. Instead of worrying about results on a trip like this, we should worry about what we can control. A lot of the matches didn’t end the way we wanted, but we definitely learned that results on the court should not affect our lives off the court. We still enjoyed the trip regardless of the results.”
Finally, Teoh addressed the difficult schedule the Garnet faced over their break.
“Playing 4 teams in the top 15 in the country was very difficult, but our guys feel very prepared for conference matches now. We now know what level we want to play at. At this point, we will only get better and we are still motivated to make NCAA’s and win as many matches as possible.”
Teoh and the other Garnet tennis players are looking to replicate their success from last season. The spring break trip to Virginia and California challenged the team against some of the best teams in the nation, while giving them a nice break from being on campus. They open Centennial Conference play with an away match against Gettysburg on Saturday, March 25 at 1pm.